February 2017

Despite the prevalence of cloudy skies (and worse!) over the UK for most of the month, five section members sent in a total of seventeen images and I thank them all for their perseverance, producing the impressive results showcased below.

Mark Beveridge submitted two images of galaxies, in fact two galaxy pairings to be exact.  NGC 2276 is an intermediate spiral with elliptical galaxy NGC 2300 in the constellation of Cepheus.

NGC 2276, NGC 2300

NGC 672 and IC 1727 are in Triangulum.

NGC 672, IC 1727

Both pairs of galaxies are interacting.  NGC 2276 is a starburst galaxy and seems to have an intermediate – mass black hole in one of its spiral arms; this was announced by the NASA Chandra X-ray telescope team in 2015.

The pair in Triangulum are about 88,000 light years apart, about 20 million light years from the Earth and share a halo of stars and gas.

Mark used a 140mm Maksutov – Cassegrain telescope and an SXR – H814 camera plus red green and blue filters.


Alan Clitherow, SPA planetary section director, used a cooled, astro modified Canon 600D DSLR and a 135mm lens to produce a wide angle image of the belt of Orion including the sword and M42 plus other nebulosity.

The Belt of Orion


The Orion nebula M42, at the lower right of this image, is under reasonable conditions visible to the naked eye;  it is also the closest to the Earth at about 1,350 light years away.

Just above M42 is a smaller emission nebula, M43, then the Running man reflection nebula NGC 1977 and above that the open cluster NGC 1981.

Close to the star Alnitak, Eastern most of Orion’s belt (i.e. to the left), is the Flame emission nebula NGC 2024.  Below this the Horsehead dark nebula can be seen as a black notch in the emission nebulosity IC 434.

Faint nebulosity at the top left hand corner is part of Barnard’s Loop:  all these nebulae form part of the Orion molecular cloud complex spanning hundreds of light years.


Paul Brierley sent in three images, two are of emission nebulae;  NGC 2174 the Monkey Head nebula in the constellaton of Orion (black and white) and NGC 2244 the Rosette nebula in Monoceros.  The third image is face – on spiral galaxy M74 in Pisces, also black and white.

NGC 2174
NGC 2244

NGC 2174 is associated with open cluster NGC 2175 (note: some sources denote the whole nebula and open cluster as NGC2175 with NGC2174 just a prominent part of the whole). Alternatively it is also known as Sharpless 252 or Sh2-252.

Paul used an Altair EDT 115mm refractor and Atik 428 EX camera for the monochrome images and a astro modified Canon 1000D DSLR plus a 200mm telephoto lens for NGC2244.




David Davies imaged barred spiral galaxy M77 in the constellation of Cetus using an 8″ Richey Chretien telescope and a QSI 583 mono camera plus red green and blue filters.  This galaxy is about 170,000 light years in diameter and contains an active nucleus which emits strongly at  radio wavelengths: the radio source is known as Cetus A and also as 3C 71.  It is the nearest (an estimated 47 million light years from Earth) and brightest Seyfert type 2 galaxy, with a 15 million solar mass supermassive black hole at its centre.



Steve Norrie imaged nine galaxies plus M42 during the month, using an ES 127mm APO refractor and Atik 490 EX one – shot colour camera.  Here are M42 in the constellation of Orion, M51 the Whirlpool spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici, M64 the  Black Eye galaxy in Coma Berenices  and M81 Bode’s galaxy in Ursa Major.



Steve’s next four images are all of galaxies.  The first two are both of M82 in Ursa Major, then  M101 also in Ursa Major and M88 in Coma Berenices.


M82, sometimes called the “cigar” galaxy, is a starburst galaxy, undergoing a prodigious rate of new star formation (about ten times the usual rate) probably triggered by an interaction with its neighbour M81.  At a distance of about 12 million light years, M81 is the closest starburst galaxy to the Earth.  It hosts sources of both X rays and radio waves situated away from the supermassive (30 million solar mass) black hole at the centre.  An intermediate sized (200 – 5000 solar mass) black hole has been suggested for the former;  the latter seems to be a unique feature that no current theory describes satisfactorily.



Steve’s last two images are M108  and M109, both barred spiral galaxies in Ursa Major.



Dave Finnigan