March 2018

Four  members sent observations  to deep sky section this month, all were digital images, twenty – one in total.

Geoff Elston, SPA solar section director, used an 80mm Vixen refractor and Canon D550 DSLR camera to capture four of these.

NGC 869 and 884 are the well – known open pair of open clusters in the constellation of Perseus, alternatively known as Caldwell 14 1+2 and the Swordhandle.  This is a superb sight in binoculars and small telescopes.  In this image NGC 869 is uppermost.

NGC 869, NGC 884

Geoff’s next two images are of open clusters;  M34 in Perseus and M38 (also the fainter NGC 1907 to the right and above centre) in Auriga.

M38, NGC 1907

Geoff’s final image is M42, the prominent emission / reflection nebula in Orion.



Alan Clitherow, SPA planetary section director, imaged emission nebulae IC 405, the Flaming Star nebula (right in this image) and IC 410, the Tadpoles nebula.

IC 405, IC 410

IC 405, (aka Sh2 – 229 and Caldwell 32), surrounds the irregular variable star AE Aurigae, a hot, blue, type O star which appears to have been ejected from the Trapezium cluster in the Orion nebula some two million years ago, together with μ (mu) Columbae (and possibly 53 Arietis). The common point of origin is ι (iota) Orionis: an interaction between two binary systems is a plausible explanation for these runaway stars.  AE Aurigae, therefore, was not formed within IC 405 although it is responsible for the ionisation of the nebula; rather it is punching through the gas at high velocity.

Alan also re – imaged  supernova remnant Sh2 – 240, (aka Simeis 147 and the Spaghetti nebula – see February 2018 report);  this time using a 135mm telephoto lens on his cooled, astro – modified Canon 600D DSLR camera, plus a Baader 7nm H alpha filter, to capture it in its entirety.   The small, bright nebula at the top of the image, just left of centre is Sh2 – 242, an emission nebula ionised by B0V class star BD+26 980.

Sh2 – 240


Mark Beveridge used a 200mm Celestron Edge f10.4 SCT and a Starlight Xpress SXR – H814 mono camera with red, green and blue filters to capture four images of galaxies from his location in Thainstone, near Inverurie.  M108, M109, NGC 3184 and NGC 3953 are all within the constellation of Ursa Major.


M108 is a source of X -rays;  indeed the Chandra X – ray telescope has identified 83 separate X – ray sources within it, including the nucleus, which hosts a 24 million solar mass black hole.

NGC 3184
NGC 3953


Steve Norrie, imaging from Fife, sent in eleven images:  the first being IC 434, an area of emission nebulosity in the constellation of Orion containing the Horsehead dark nebula (Barnard 33).  The Flame nebula, NGC 2024, is at the bottom left of this image;  ionised by Alnitak (zeta Orionis).

IC 434 and Barnard 33

The remaining ten images are actually in pairs: one taken with a Skywatcher 72mm ED refractor plus Atik 490 colour camera and the other with an ES 127mm CF APO and a Starlight Xpress Trius SX694 mono camera plus red, green, blue and narrow band filters.

First are images of the Leo triplet of galaxies;  M65, M66 and NGC 3628.

Leo triplet, mono camera plus filters
Leo triplet, colour camera

In these images, M65 is upper left, M66 is upper centre and NGC 3628 lower right. The latter is edge – on and has a noticeable dust band . At about 35 million light years from the Earth, these galaxies show evidence of gravitational interactions with one another: a billion years ago M66 had an encounter with NGC 3628 which displaced its central bulge and pulled a tidal stream of stars out of its neighbour.

Here we have face – on spiral galaxy M51 in Canes Venatici, the Whirlpool:

M51, mono camera plus filters
M51, colour camera

Next is M101, the Pinwheel galaxy, in Ursa major:

M101, mono camera plus filters
M101, colour camera

This pair is of M109, also in Ursa Major:

M109, mono camera plus filters
M109, colour camera

Finally, a pair of images of the Rosette nebula in Monoceros, NGC 2238:

NGC 2238, mono camera plus filters
NGC 2238, colour camera


Dave Finnigan