100 Hours of Astronomy for Universe Today Readers Begins Now!

Attention Universe Today Readers! “100 Hours of Astronomy” is about to begin and we’ve got a very special gift just for you. How would you like to decide where to aim our IYA remote telescope? While Saturday, April 3, celebrates the global Star Party where many telescopes (both remote and live) will be open to the public, we couldn’t help but wonder about those who might not be able to make it out, didn’t live near an event – or had bad weather. So, we decided to do something about it. Rather than only give you the 100 hours of telescope time over the next few days, we’re going to give you 100 hours of IYA remote telescope targeting choices and only start the clock ticking when the sky is clear and the scope is running! Are you ready to choose your coordinates and save your astrophoto to show to the world? Then grab your star charts and step inside for some instructions…

Beginning at 9:00 UT on April 2, 2009 the IYA “Galactic TV” Remote Telescope located in the southern hemisphere will be yours when it comes to choice of objects for viewing. If you’ve ever wondered what a particular NGC looks like – then now is your chance to find out! However, you’ll need to remember that this is a “real” telescope with real limitations working from a real sky… and that means doing a little astronomical homework on your part. Are you ready to begin? Good!!

For those of us familiar with northern hemisphere skies, this means totally reversing the way we think. The ecliptic plane will now be to the north, positioned approximately 60 degrees above the horizon from our telescope’s point of view and the southern pole will be positioned roughly 40 degrees above the horizon. This means that constellations familiar to us – like Orion – will begin past the meridian to the high west at nightfall. Good constellations to choose objects from (for example) would be Carina, Vela, Crux, Centaurus, Circinus, Pavo, Indus, Tucana, Hydra, Lupus, Pices Austrinus and Scorpius. But, don’t forget that we share common sky, too! Anything rising to the east can also be seen.

The next step in choosing a target is what our telescope is capable of. When it comes to field of view, you’re in luck at a full degree of “eyepiece space”. This means that anything that measures 60 arc minutes or less in size will fit inside the camera screen with ease. You will need to choose your object by magnitude as well. During perfect dark sky conditions our 80mm telescope can achieve around magnitude 8 deep sky (such as galaxies and nebulae), but remember… there will be Moon present for at least part of the evening. This will limit what the telescope can “see” at a particular time. While the Moon is out, choose bright open star clusters and save galaxies or nebula for the hours before dawn. Also remember our telescope is very small, so it has a limited resolution factor – it won’t be able to split very close double stars.

Now… Are you ready for the fun part?! All you have to do is post your object request here. You don’t need to be an astronomer, know how to operate a telescope or how to control astrophotography equipment to enjoy our IYA remote scope! Just post the common name (like Eta Carinae), OR catalog number (such as NGC 2516, Messier, IC or others) of your request, OR type in the coordinates (RA and Dec), add your name and location, and the Southern Galactic Telescope Hosting Facility will take care of the rest. When your object is targeted, here is what your screen will look like:


So what happens if you’re not home or at your computer when your request appears? Not to worry. We thought of that, too. Southern Galactic has kindly agreed to take a photo snap of your screen and save it for you! Because this wonderful project is meant to inspire everyone around the world to use a telescope, we’ll save these images and post the collection every few days for the duration of the 100 hours of the IYA remote telescope event and folks everywhere will have an opportunity to enjoy the target you have chosen and to see who selected it.

We’ll honor as many requests as possible each night – allowing ample viewing time for each object, take your snapshot for the library and select one as the video of the day. Some may appear before others depending on the position or magnitude demands, but we’ll do our very best to give you all you ask for. So what are you waiting for? Get your star charts out and start posting your requests here right now!

Our many thanks to the Southern Galactic Remote Telescope Hosting Facility for the extremely generous donation of your time to make this wonderful project happen!

IYA Live Telescope Today – M68

We certainly hope you had the opportunity to keep an eye on our remote telescope! Despite the Moon gaining a hold on the sky, we’re delivering some very fine images and we’ve even bumped up the user level so more folks can access the telescope at the same time. I know it’s certainly fascinating to watch and I have to keep reminding myself to quit being a “scope hog”! If you didn’t get a chance to watch the IYA telescope “live” on Galactic TV today, don’t worry. We took a video capture for you. Step inside to enjoy today’s view of Messier Object 68. We do it all for you…

The following information is a direct quotation from Wikipedia:

M 68 Globular Cluster: Constellation – HYDRA

Messier 68 (also known as M68 or NGC 4590) is a globular cluster in the Hydra constellation. It was discovered by Charles Messier in 1780. M68 is at a distance of about 33,000 light-years away from Earth.

This following is a direct quotation from SEDS and is credited to the wonderful work of Hartmut Frommert and Christine Kronberg who have inspired and taught us so much over the years:

Messier 68 (M68, NGC 4590) is a beautiful globular cluster situated in an unusual place for such objects, in the hemisphere opposite to the Galactic Center. This 7.8th magnitude globular cluster lies at a distance of about 33,000 light years, and its members are spread over a volume of about 106 light years diameter. It has at least 42 known variables. Harlow Shapley had already found of which 28 so-called “cluster Variables” (RR Lyrae stars), one of which (No. 27) has later been shown to be not a cluster member (Greenstein, Bidelman and Popper, 1947). Shapley also gave the ellipticity of this globular as 9 in 1930, while in 1949, he described it as round when accounting for its 2000 brightest stars. In amateur telescopes it actually appears round, although some observers (including John Mallas) perceived it as oval.

Former catalogs systematically give fainter visual magnitudes, probably because this southern cluster was estimated from northern observers: Helen Sawyer Hogg lists it at 9.12 mag, Mallas/Kreimer at 8th mag, Becvar, Kenneth Glyn Jones and the Sky Catalogue 2000.0 at mag 8.2. The newer Deep Sky Field Guide to Uranometria 2000.0 gives mag 7.7, and in its second edition, a total apparent visual brightness of mag 7.3.

According to Kenneth Glyn Jones, M68 contains about 250 giant stars of absolute mag greater than zero, about half as much as M3 or M13. Its brightest star is of magnitude 12.6, while the horizontal branch level of this cluster is at mag 15.6, according to the Deep Sky Field Guide to Uranometria 2000.0. Helen Sawyer Hogg has found 25 stars being brighter than mag 14.8, and lists its overall spectral type as A6.

Past distance measurements for M68 have varied: Shapley’s early determination had been 50,000 light years (15.5 kpc), while Becvar gives 37,500 ly (11.5 kpc), T.D. Kinman’s average is 39,000 ly (12.0kpc), and McCluere et.al (1937) obtained 36,000 ly (11.2 kpc). Our modern value of 33,300 ly is from William E. Harris’ Galactic Globular Clusters Database. M68 is approaching us at 112 km/sec.

M68 was discovered by Charles Messier on April 9, 1780. Because of some dubious error, Admiral Smyth has assigned this discovery to Pierre Méchain, and in the 1960s, Kenneth Glyn Jones adopted this view, despite the fact that this is not acknowledged by Messier in his Catalog description, as he did for all of Méchain’s true discoveries. The discovery is correctly assigned to Messier e.g. by Dreyer’s NGC, Helen B. Sawyer [Hogg] (1947) and Burnham. As most of Messier’s globular clusters, it was first resolved into stars by William Herschel, in 1786. Messier mentions a 6th mag star in his description for M68, which is actually a 5.4-mag double star: ADS 8612 (also cataloged as B320), A: 5.4 mag, B: 12.2 mag at PA 152 deg and separation 1.6″ (in 1926).

M68 is quite difficult to observe for Northern observers because of its southern declination. They may best find it by following a line from the stars Delta to Beta Corvi (mag 3), which points toward 5.4-mag ADS 8612 mentioned above. M68 is then easily located about 45′ NE of this star. A faint patch in binoculars, the brightest stars of M68 are resolved by telescopes starting from 4-inch aperture under good conditions; these instruments show a mottled round nebulous patch with a bright center, gradually fading to its edges. A 6-inch resolves the outer parts of this cluster, a halo of 12′ diameter. Larger telescopes show its nature as a rich cluster well to the core.

! As always, you can visit the remote telescope by clicking on the IYA “LIVE Remote Cam” Logo to your right. We’ll be broadcasting whenever skies are clear and dark in Central Victoria! Enjoy…

Factual information is copied from: Wikipedia and from the SEDS Messier 68 page. Thank you so much!

IYA Live Telescope Today – The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the IYA telescope “live” on Galactic TV today, don’t worry. We took a video capture for you. Step inside to enjoy today’s view of the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy.

The following information is a direct quotation from Wikipedia:

Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (Messier 83) – Hydra constellation

Messier 83 (also known as the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, M83 or NGC 5236) is an intermediate spiral galaxy approximately 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra. Pierre Mechain discovered M83 in 1752 at the Cape of Good Hope. Charles Messier added it to his catalogue of nebulous objects (now known as the Messier Catalogue) in March 1781.

It is one of the closest and brightest barred spiral galaxies in the sky, making it visible with binoculars. Six Supernovae (SN 1923A, SN 1945B, SN 1950B, SN 1957D, SN 1968L and SN 1983N) have been observed in M83. On 16 June 2008 NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer project reported finding large numbers of new stars in the outer reaches of the galaxy. It had hitherto been thought that these areas lacked the materials necessary for star formation.

M83 is at the center of one of two subgroups within the Centaurus A/M83 Group, a nearby group of galaxies. Centaurus A is at the center of the other subgroup. These two groups are sometimes identified as one group and sometimes identified as two groups. However, the galaxies around Centaurus A and the galaxies around M83 are physically close to each other, and both subgroups appear not to be moving relative to each other.

Now that you have seen Messier 83 in a small telescope, you can see why Charles Messier felt it could have been mistaken for a comet! As always, you can visit the remote telescope by clicking on the IYA “LIVE Remote Cam” Logo to your right. We’ll be broadcasting whenever skies are clear and dark in Central Victoria! Enjoy…

Factual information is copied from: Wikipedia.

IYA Live Telescope Today – Alpha Crucis: Split! and M11

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the IYA telescope “live” on Galactic TV today, don’t worry. We took a video capture for you. Step inside to enjoy today’s view of Alpha Crucis, better know as Acrux. Thanks to a little “fine tuning” we’ve learned how to split the doubles on video! As an added weekend treat we’ve even done a little duck hunting, too… Double your pleasure, double your fun… Catch a double star and two videos – instead of just one!

The following information is a cut and paste from Wikipedia to accompany the video:

Alpha Crucis – Acrux: CRUX

Acrux (Alpha Cru / Alpha Crucis) is the brightest star in constellation Crux, the Southern Cross and, at visual magnitude 0.77, is the twelfth brightest star in the night time sky. Acrux is the southernmost first-magnitude star, just a bit more southerly than Alpha Centauri.

Acrux is a multiple star located 321 light years from the solar system. Only two components are visually distinguishable, Alpha 1 and Alpha 2, separated by 4 arcseconds. ?1 is magnitude 1.40 and Alpha 2 is magnitude 2.09, both hot class B (almost class O) stars, with surface temperatures of about 28,000 and 26,000 kelvins respectively. Their luminosities are 25,000 and 16,000 times that of the Sun. Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 orbit over such a long period that motion is only barely seen. From their minimum separation of 430 astronomical units, the period is at least 1,500 years, and may be much longer.

Alpha 1 is itself a spectroscopic binary star, with its components thought to be around 14 and 10 times the mass of the Sun and orbiting in only 76 days at a separation of about 1 AU. The masses of Alpha 2 and the brighter component of Alpha 1 suggest that the stars will someday explode as supernovae. The fainter component of Alpha1 may survive to become a massive white dwarf.

Another class-B subgiant lies 90 arcseconds away from triple Acrux and shares Acrux’s motion through space, suggesting it may be gravitationally bound to Acrux. However, if it is indeed located near Acrux, it is under-luminous for its class. It is probably just an optical double star, most likely several hundred light years beyond Acrux.

(Information Source: Wikipedia)

Wild Duck Cluster (M 11): SCUTUM

The Wild Duck Cluster (also known as Messier 11, or NGC 6705) is an open cluster in the constellation Scutum. It was discovered by Gottfried Kirch in 1681. Charles Messier included it in his catalogue in 1764.

The Wild Duck Cluster is one of the richest and most compact of the known open clusters, containing about 2900 stars. Its age has been estimated to about 220 million years. Its name derives from the brighter stars forming a triangle which could represent a flying flock of ducks.

(Information Source: Wikipedia)

As always, you can visit the remote telescope by clicking on the IYA “LIVE Remote Cam” Logo to your right. We’ll be broadcasting whenever skies are clear and dark in Central Victoria! Enjoy….

IYA Live Telescope Today – Alpha Centauri

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the IYA telescope “live” on Galactic TV today, don’t worry. We took a video capture for you. Step inside to enjoy today’s view of Alpha Centauri…

Alpha Centauri (alpha Centauri / alpha Cen); (also known as Rigil Kentaurus, Rigil Kent, or Toliman) is the brightest star in the southern constellation of Centaurus and an established binary star system, Alpha Centauri AB (alpha Cen AB). To the unaided eye it appears as a single star, whose total visual magnitude identifies it as the third brightest star in the night sky. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the Solar System, being only 1.34 parsecs, or 4.37 light years away from our Sun.

Popularly known, Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our Solar System. It lies about 4.37 light-years in distance, or about 41.5 trillion kilometres, 25.8 trillion miles or 277,600 AU. Astronomer Thomas James Henderson made the original discovery from many exacting observations of the trigonometric parallaxes of the AB system between April 1832 and May 1833. He withheld the results because he suspected they were too large to be true, but eventually published in 1839 after Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel released his own accurately determined parallax for 61 Cygni in 1838. For this reason, we consider Alpha Centauri as the second star to have its distance measured.

Alpha Centauri A is the principal member or primary of the binary system, being slightly larger and more luminous than our Sun. It is a solar-like main sequence star with a similar yellowish-white colour, whose stellar classification is spectral type G2 V.[12] From the determined mutual orbital parameters, Alpha Cen A is about 10% more massive than our Sun, with a radius about 23% larger.

Alpha Centauri B is the companion star or secondary, slightly smaller and less luminous than our Sun. This main sequence star is of spectral type of K1 V, making it more an orangish-yellow color than the whiter primary star. Alpha Cen B is about 90% the mass of the Sun and 14% smaller in radius. Although it has a lower luminosity than component A, star B’s spectrum emits higher energies in X-rays. The light curve of B varies on a short time scale and there has been at least one observed flare.

Together, the bright visible components of the binary star system are called Alpha Centauri AB (Alpha Cen AB). This “AB” designation denotes the apparent gravitational centre of the main binary system relative to other companion star(s) in any multiple star system.[15] “AB-C” refers to the orbit of Proxima around the central binary, being the distance between the centre of gravity and the outlying companion. Some older references use the confusing and now discontinued designation of A×B. Since the distance between the Sun and ? Cen AB does not differ significantly from either star, gravitationally this binary system is considered as if it were one object.

Alpha Centauri C, also known as Proxima Centauri, is of spectral class M5Ve or M5VIe, suggesting this is either a small main sequence star (Type V) or sub-dwarf (VI) with emission lines, whose B-V colour index is +1.81. Its mass is about 0.12 M. R.T.A. Innes from South Africa in 1915 discovered Proxima Centauri by blinking photographic plates taken at different times during a dedicated proper motion survey. This showed the large proper motion and parallax of the star was similar in both size and direction to those of ? Centauri AB, suggesting immediately it was part of the system and slightly closer to us than ? Centauri AB. Lying 4.22 light-years away, Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to the Sun. All current derived distances for the three stars are presently from the parallaxes obtained from the Hipparcos star catalog (HIP).

As always, you can visit the remote telescope by clicking on the IYA “LIVE Remote Cam” Logo to your right. We’ll be broadcasting whenever skies are clear and dark in Central Victoria! Enjoy….

Information Courtesy of Wikipedia

IYA Live Telescope Today – The Jewel Box Cluster

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the IYA telescope “live” on Galactic TV today, don’t worry. We took a video capture for you. Step inside to enjoy today’s view of NGC 4755…

The Jewel Box (also known as NGC 4755 or Kappa Crucis Cluster) is an open cluster in the constellation of Crux. As Kappa Crucis, it has a Bayer designation despite the fact that it is a cluster rather than an individual star.

It is one of the finest open clusters discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille when he was in South Africa during 17511752. This cluster is one of the youngest known, with an estimated age of only 7.1 million years. It has an apparent magnitude of 4.2, and is located 6,440 light years from Earth and contains around 100 stars. This famous group of young bright stars was named the Jewel Box from its description by Sir John Herschel as “a casket of variously coloured precious stones,” which refers to its appearance in the telescope. The bright orange star Kappa Crucis contrasts strongly against its predominantly blue, hot companions. Kappa Crucis is a very large (hence very luminous) young star in its red supergiant stage, which paradoxically indicates that its life is drawing to a close. The cluster looks like a star to the unaided eye and appears close to the easternmost star of the Southern Cross, (Beta Crucis), so is only visible from southern latitudes. (Information courtesy of Wikipedia)

Right now the IYA remote live telescope is a work in progress. Be aware that video recordings will be jerky until we get some of the system bugs worked out. As always, you can visit the remote telescope by clicking on the IYA “LIVE Remote Cam” Logo to your right. We’ll be broadcasting whenever skies are clear and dark in Central Victoria! Enjoy….

International Year of Astronomy Live Telescope

Notice something new here on Universe Today? That’s right… There’s a new International Year of Astronomy logo in the right hand column and a video. If you’re wondering what “Galactic TV” is all about, then step inside…

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery. Here at Universe Today, we believe in those goals set forth by the IYA founders, so we teamed together to give our readership something you’ll find nowhere else on Earth (or the web) – a live view of the Cosmos via a remote telescope.

Thanks to Internet magic, Universe Today, Northern and Southern Galactic and Warren Rupp Observatory have teamed together to base a small telescope in the southern hemisphere and broadcast a live television image of what the telescope is seeing through the eyepiece camera. Around 09:00 UT, (which is local dark time in Central Victoria, Australia) broadcasting will begin – and will continue non-stop until either daylight or clouds happen. If you tune in and there’s no image, that can only mean one of three things – it’s either clouded out, it’s daylight, or the connection has reached its limits of viewers and you’ll just have to try back in few minutes.

If you’ve ever wondered what southern sky gems look like, now is your chance to see them just as they appear at the moment. All you have to do is click on “LIVE Remote Cam” below the IYA logo. While these aren’t Hubble views, the small telescope and Stellacam are providing very clear looks at objects like you’ll see on the small screen replay of Omega Centauri! Check out this larger version…

If you miss out on a live broadcast of the International Year of Astronomy telescope, don’t despair. Each time the telescope is in operation we’ll take a video recording of each object, add some Wikipedia information and store it in the IYA “Live” Telescope Library! Broadcasts from the telescope will continue for the entire 2009 year and will feature everything from galaxies to double stars.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture and marks the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei. The aim of the Year is to stimulate worldwide interest, especially among young people, in astronomy and science under the central theme “The Universe, Yours to Discover”. What better way to celebrate than to enjoy this virtual telescope and discover the beauty with your own eyes?

Rock on….