March 2017

Weather conditions slowly improved during March;  a spell of clear nights in the latter part of the month resulted in a flood of reports:  grand total of two drawings and thirty six images from five section members.


David Davies of Cambridge sent in three images.  The first is NGC 1977, a reflection nebula in the constellation of Orion known as the Running Man nebula.

NGC 1977

Next is open cluster M44;   also known as Praesepe (which is the Latin for manger) or the Beehive in Cancer;  then M48, an open cluster in Hydra.


M44 is reckoned to be around 600 light years from the Earth (expect Gaia data to make these estimates of distance considerably more accurate) and is about 600 million years old.  M48 is about half the age of M44, but 2.5 times further from us.  David used an 8″ Richey Chretien telescope for the first image and an APM 107mm triplet APO refractor for the open clusters;  a QSI 583 camera plus colour filters was used throughout.



Steve Cooke of Brixton used a Skywatcher 200P Newtonian telescope  and an astro modified Canon 1000D DSLR to image a range of deep sky objects.  The first four are:  M15, a globular cluster in the constellation of Hercules, M2 globular cluster in Aquarius, M45 open cluster the Pleiades in Taurus and Barnard 33 or the Horsehead nebula in Orion.

Barnard 33

Steve’s next four images are:  M35 open cluster in Gemini, M42 emission/reflection nebula in Orion, M27, the Dumbbell planetary nebula in Vulpecula and M11, the Wild Duck open cluster in Scutum.



Steve’s final two images are:  M57, the Ring planetary nebula in the constellation of Lyra and M33, the Pinwheel spiral galaxy in Triangulum.



Alan Clitherow, SPA Planetary Director, sent in two images of galaxies.  First is M101, a face on spiral galaxy in the constellation of Ursa Major, which shares the informal name of the Pinwheel galaxy with M33 (above).


Next is M51 A and B.  M51 A is another face-on galaxy in Canes Venatici, which is commonly known as the Whirlpool galaxy.  Its smaller companion M51 B is interacting with M51 A, which has an active nucleus and is classified as a Seyfert type 2.  Alan used a MN190P Maksutov Newtonian telescope and QHY10 camera, with additional data from a Canon astro modified and cooled DSLR.

M51 A, M51 B


Mark Beveridge, imaging from Thainstone near Inverurie, submitted a total of 9 images to the section; 6 galaxies, an emission nebula, a planetary nebula, and an open cluster.

NGC 896 is the Heart emission nebula in the constellation of Cassiopeia, planetary nebula NGC 1501 lies in Camelopardalis, and galaxies M61 in Virgo and M66 are in Leo.

NGC 896
NGC 1501

Mark’s next four images are galaxies M88 in Coma Berenices, M90 in Virgo, NGC 3628, the Hamburger galaxy in Leo and NGC 5907, the edge-on Splinter galaxy in Draco.

NGC 3628
NGC 5907

Mark’s final image is of galaxy cluster  Abell 426 in Perseus.  This actually contains thousands of galaxies and is around 240 million light years from the Earth.  The brightest galaxy in this image, just below and left of centre, is NGC 1275, also known as Caldwell 24 and Perseus A.  It is the dominant member of the cluster and is a Seyfert type 2 active galaxy with a supermassive black hole at the core.  It emits powerfully at both X ray and radio frequencies, and detailed Hubble telescope images suggest that it has consumed other galaxies in the past, feeding the black hole and triggering vast amounts of new star formation.  Mark used an OMC 140mm f14.3 Maksutov Cassegrain telescope and a SXR H814 plus colour filters for these images.

NGC 1275

Michael Kinns of Eastry sent in two drawings of open clusters, observing with an Orion Optics UK 200mm Newtonian reflector at a magnification of x100.  M67  is in the constellation of Cancer, and NGC 2301 in Monoceros.   M67 is quite old for an open cluster.  The most recent estimate of the age of the stars within it gave a figure of 4 billion years, not much younger than the sun.  There are a few older open clusters but at around 2.5 thousand light years it is the nearest of this age group.

NGC 2301



Steve Norrie of Fife  sent in  eleven images, all of galaxies:  the first four are M51, the Whirlpool galaxy and M63 the Sunflower galaxy, both in Canes Venatici; then M61 in Virgo and M64, the Black Eye galaxy in Coma Berenices.


The next four galaxy images are:  M88, M99 and M100 all in the constellation of Coma Berenices, and an image of the Leo triplet, M65, M66 and NGC 3628.

M65, M66, NGC 3628

Steve’s final three images are:  M101 and M108, both in the constellation of Ursa Major; and M106 in Canes Venatici.  M106 is an active Seyfert type 2, with a supermassive, X-ray emitting black hole at its centre.  Steve uses an  ES 127mm APO refractor and an Atik 490 EX one-shot colour camera.


  Dave Finnigan