Skip to comments.Hunting galaxies in Leo the Lion
Posted on 04/01/2018 4:56:21 AM PDT by SandRat
Twitter Email Print Save
Leo the Lion is one of the more recognizable constellations in the April sky. It is also a great place to point a telescope and try your hand at deep sky observing.
The deep sky is what astronomers call the realm beyond our solar system; it is populated with galaxies, nebulae and star clusters in abundance.
As winter turns to spring, our evening sky turns away from the plane of the Milky Way. Our view is directed into deep space where we find external galaxies unhindered by the obscuring gas and dust of our own galaxy.
Their unimaginable distance from us renders them rather faint, and they can be quite challenging for the novice observer. Leo contains some of the skys brightest and easiest galaxies and several are visible in small telescopes.
First, however, you must temper your expectations. Put those fantastic Hubble telescope images of galaxies out of your mind and prepare yourself to see what these objects looked like to the visual astronomers who first discovered them.
I confess that some observers may be disappointed. Distant galaxies are little more than a dim smudge of light in the telescope and for some, thats all they are. It is with our minds eye that their true wonder is appreciated. When we contemplate that within that tiny smidgen of illumination is an unimaginably vast expanse of stars and planets, of gas and dust, and of limitless potential for life, we cant help but be captivated.
The challenge of seeking them out, to find them for ourselves and see them with our own eyes, is what appeals to the amateur astronomer. Leo is a great place to discover if galaxy hunting appeals to you.
To find Leo, look for a group of stars shaped like a backward question mark or a sickle high in the April sky. This is the face and mane of the lion, anchored by the bright star Regulus. The tail of the lion, the star Denebola, lies 24.5 degrees to the east (left) of Regulus. Thats more than 50 full moons away!
To see a lion in the pattern of stars, think of the Sphinx in Egypt. Hes facing west, and a little imagination will enable you to pick out the stars that represent the lions body and folded legs.
The two bright stars that form the rear leg of the lion stand nearly in a vertical line on April evenings. Just a little below that leg are a pair of galaxies that are visible as a faint patch of nebulosity in a good pair of binoculars. This is the place to start.
The nearly matched pair of spiral galaxies are known as M65 and M66. The M in the name refers to Charles Messier, an 18th century astronomer famous for his catalog of nebulae and star clusters. In a telescope, M65 and M66 appear as round glows with brighter centers. Larger scopes will show an even fainter halo beyond their cores and some may even reveal the faint wisps that trace their outer spiral arms.
The two form a remarkable triplet with a third galaxy, an edge-on spiral, that appears as an elongated streak. These massive star cities, each similar in size to our Milky Way, are about 35 million light years distant. When we look out into space, we are looking back in time; the light we see left those distant galaxies long before humans walked the earth.
Further west under the belly of the lion are three more Messier objects: the galaxies M95, M96 and M105. A good star map will help you locate them. If finding them gives you a sense of accomplishment and the urge to search for more deep sky treasures then, welcome to the ranks of the observational astronomer!
April has something for the shallow sky astronomer too, especially if youre an early riser. The bright planets Mars and Saturn will have a close pairing in the southeastern sky in the hour before dawn. They begin the month just a single degree apart. They will share the sky just above the teapot of Sagittarius all month. As the month goes on, they will drift apart and brighten each morning. Itll be a fine show.
Hmmm, so I wonder what a good telescope for a retired amateur to peruse the stars and galaxies would cost. Thousands?
OK, Mr. Spoc.
Also, you misspelled Spock.
this thread is worthless w/out pics! js...
I know not. Ask the Vulcan Science Academy.
You can probably buy a decent 8 or 10 inch Dobsonian for around $500. But there is a learning curve to this sort of thing. If you haven’t already spent some time with more modest equipment such as binoculars, it will most likely end up as a garage ornament.
I was just wondering what power you need to view other galaxies without them being just smudges of light. Rent time on the Hubble, LOL?
Galaxies are actually very large compared to things like planets, etc. The Andromeda galaxy is about 6 full moons in angular diameter. What you really need to image them is light gathering power (i.e. objective lens size) and time exposure (which means tracking with photography). I’ve never done it since I don’t have the money or the back yard.
Thats more than 50 full moons
On the plus side: https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news201.html
The least of my worries, literally. Running over a cat on my way back from work ranks well above it.
It depends on what you want to do and how much you want to put into it.
You can get an Obsession 22inch for about $11,000, or, you can go with a Lightbridge 10in for about 600. At an event my club is having in a few weeks, we’re giving away a 80mm Lightbridge. They cost about $60 and are great starter scopes.
I have a buddy who as a 22 Obsession and it has some WONDERFUL views, but, it’s a lot of setup.
I have a hand made (not by me) 12.5 dob I inherited when the owner died. It’s a great scope.
I wish they had talked about some of the other galaxies in Leo like NGC 2903, or, my personal favorites, the NGC 3190 group.
Best bet, Learn the sky first, then figure out how much you are willing to part with. Just remember, you won’t see anything like in the pictures.
Yeah, nothing to worry about right now.
Thanks SandRat. A ping to X-Planets, with APoD members along for the ride.
|· join · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post new topic · subscribe ·|
|Google news searches: exoplanet · exosolar · extrasolar ·|
A digital camera alone will record very good photos.
A telescope will help make the photos better by enlarging the objects.
Advice for First Time Telescope Buyers
Can you see the Flag on the Moon with a Telescope?
This guy takes great photos including the space station:
ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY - THIERRY LEGAULT
Another who takes great photos. He shows what he uses to take the photos.
Russell Croman Astrophotography
Using a Canon camera:
Using a Nikon
Nikon D810a astrophotography sample images
No telescope? No problem! You can still shoot deep-sky astrophotography images like a pro.
Pretty soon you will want to get a big telescope.
The World’s Largest Telescope
The biggest is 128 foot or 1,536” diameter Extremely Large Telescope
You just need a shed to house your telescope
Using a Nikon
Nikon D810a astrophotography sample images
#14 there is an app for that. You can use a telescope or your smart phone to see what is in a particular area of the sky on any given night without asking a Druid.
I thought this was a hunting thread...............
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.