All is Not What it Seems


Image Credit & Copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Time and time again we see pairs of overlapping galaxies and or objects in space that appear to be side by side when they are in fact, not. This odd couple is no different; NGC 5011B (Right) and NGC 5011C (Top center).

Roughly 156 million light years away is NGC 5011B, a spiral galaxy that resides in the Centaurus Cluster of Galaxies which contains well over 100 galaxies and is the nearest supercluster to the Virgo supercluster. NGC 5011C for many years was believed to be alongside its image partner and also a member of the same supercluster. That was however, until they took a closer look.

First and foremost there is no apparent interaction between the two objects. No gravitational imbalance or streams of material being disrupted due to tidal forces. Secondly and most importantly, when they conducted a study on the relative velocity of the two objects they discovered that NGC 5011B (The spiral galaxy) is red shifted at a much faster rate than its neighbor and that rate matches the rate of the Centaurus Cluster. NGC 5011C has a rate of redshift that is similar to the Centaurus A group of Galaxies which lie about 13 million light years away.

With those facts in hand, astronomers could now deduce that at a given size and distance, NGC 5011C contains within it a mass of only about ten million Suns. Thus the object is almost certainly a nearby Dwarf Galaxy comparable to other dwarf galaxies in the local group.

On a personal note, I often do see many objects that appear to be side by side when they are not buy honestly I never found this to be one of them. Albeit I have never seen this pair through a telescope, however the first time I viewed this photo it’s pretty clear that the spiral galaxy is much further away. The dwarf has to be close just due to the fact that dwarf galaxies are much smaller than spiral galaxies and it’s close enough to where the individual stars within it are resolved in the photo. So I’m not sure who this pair fooled or who knows, maybe it did until this photo along with the measurements came into light. Just my 2$.

NAME: NGC 5011B & NGC 5011C.

WHAT IS IT: NGC 5011B Spiral Galaxy / NGC 5011C Dwarf Galaxy.

HOW BIG IS IT?: On the night sky NGC 5011B is about 48” X 24” arcseconds. NGC 5011C is about 1.2’ arcminutes X 48” arcseconds.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: NGC 5011B is approximately 156 million light years away / NGC5011C is approximately 13 million light years distant.

APPARENT MAGNITUDE?: NGC 5011B +14.5 / NGC 5011C +14.2 which makes them both extremely dim, pushing the limits of what an 8 inch telescope can resolve.

WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Centaurus.

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC): NGC 5011B RA 13h 13m 12s / DEC -43º 15′ 00”. NGC 5011C RA 13h 13m 12s / DEC -43º 16′ 00”.

ESA Hubble page for this photo:

NASA Hubble page for this photo:

ESO page for these objects:

SIMBAD Data page for these objects (NGC 5011B):

DSO Browser page for these objects (NGC 5011B):

Cornell University post on NGC 5011C:


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Himalayan Lights


Image Credit & Copyright: Josiah William Gordon.

In the darkest of dark night skies, things appear that you won’t see anywhere else on Earth. This image by Josiah Gordon was captured in the amazing Himalayan Mountains. Year after year, little by little our night skies are being lost to light pollution and modern advancement of the human race. While advancement and progress is a must, we should take steps to ensure that in fifty years-time there are still places on Earth where the Milky Way and night sky objects can be seen. Just like the preservation of our forests (albeit for different reasons) the preservation of our night sky is a worthwhile endeavor because, sadly, the human race in general will not preserve it unless it is mandated by governments. Time and time again, we have a sad track record of not being able to do what we must until mandated to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, we will always have incredible space telescopes beaming images down to our computer screens but there’s something to be said for standing under the night sky and just being taken back in awe at the view when your familiar constellations are lost in a sea of stars which only a true dark sky can deliver.

This is a great image by Josiah and I thank him for sharing. Be sure to check out more of his work.

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Clouds Roll In

Image Credit & Copyright: Lincoln Harrison.

At night, if you’re in the right location and the conditions are acceptable, a cloud will rise every night as it has for the 4.5 billion years Earth and the planets have existed. It rains not water but instead with the light of over 100 billion suns and this cloud stretches for over 100,000 light years. We can never fly through this cloud because even though we are in it, it is always too far away to reach.

To fly through such a cloud would prove to be perilous as well because in this cloud you have more to worry about than the bumpy ride turbulence provides. Monsters live within that remain unseen because they even swallow light. They can see you in all directions and once in their grasp you are lost forever. In lieu of lightning, there are massive blasts that easily annihilate entire star systems and even neighboring star systems if they are close enough. There are massive, lethal doses of radiation and jets of energy that would evaporate us instantly if we were unlucky enough as to be looking down the barrel when the shot is fired. No comfortable temperatures here. It’s either minus a few hundred degrees or upwards of many thousands to millions of degrees (F or C doesn’t matter at this point). That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Another reason that you may want to think twice about venturing into this cloud; there are over 100 billion stars and around those stars hundreds of billions of planets……..and as far as we can tell, we are alone. In fact, as far as we can tell; as we look out into the universe, we see hundreds of billions of galaxies, and still we realize that we may be the only thing in the universe that even knows what the universe is……Over 93 billion light years in diameter……and we have no evidence that there’s anyone else here with us……yet.

Lincoln Harrison:



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Happy Birthday to an American Legend; John Glenn


Image Credit & Copyright: NASA.

John Herschel Glenn Jr was born on July 18, 1921 and grew up in the town of New Concord, Ohio which at the time boasted a population of 2,650.

On December 7, 1941 like those today who answered the call after 911, Glenn dropped out of college to join the Army Air Corps but was not called up. He would enlist again as a U.S Naval Aviation Cadet and this time was chosen and reassigned to the United States Marine Corps. He found his way into combat during WWII, flying 59 combat missions in his F4U Corsair with The Marine Fighting Squadron-155 or VMF-155 “Ready Teddy” (Check out the unit’s mission insignia when you get a chance as it’s pretty unique).

Apparently WWII wasn’t enough for now Flight Instructor & Captain Glenn as he was assigned to the Korean War under The Marine Attack Squadron-311 or VMA-311 “Tomcats” (Again, check out the insignia, it’s great) flying the F9F Panther. Over the course of his 63 combat missions in Korea he earned the name “Magnet Ass” for his apparent ability to attract enemy fire and flak. On at least two occasions he returned with more than 250 flak holes throughout his aircraft. While in theatre he flew alongside RedSox great, Ted Williams and the highly decorated Marine, Ralph Spanjer.

Later, during an interservice exchange program Glenn would be assigned to the U.S Air Force’s, 51st Fighter Wing where he logged 27 more combat missions in the beautiful F-86F Sabre which he dubbed “The MiG Mad Marine.”

After the war, Glenn was appointed to Class 12 of Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station Patuxent River where he was a high altitude test gunner. On July 16, 1957 Glenn took part in “Project Bullet” in which he became the 1st pilot to make a supersonic transcontinental flight. The flight from Naval Air Station Los Alamitos, CA to Floyd Bennett Field, NY took all of 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds and of course the flight path took him directly over his home town where he shook every window and ear drum available.

If that were all John Glenn had accomplished in his life it would already be more than most of us will do in our entire lives……..

But that certainly isn’t the end of his story. In fact, after living a life as a hero to the extreme and doing things that most of us will never come close to experiencing, he was just getting warmed up. In 1958 he caught wind of this new agency; the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) and their new call to recruit something called, astronauts and travel into space. Of course, he made it in to the now legendary NASA Group 1 “Mercury 7” but just barely. He was nearing the cutoff age of 40 and didn’t have a science based college degree; both of which were requirements. Ironically, he was the oldest member of “Mercury 7” though today he is the only living member that remains.

On February 20, 1962 this Marine Corps war hero and test pilot flew himself into yet another record book. The flight was named Mercury-Atlas 6 and the capsule (Which at the time the astronauts could still name) was named Friendship 7. Rocket, capsule and astronaut left the earth from Cape Canaveral FL, Launch Complex 14, that afternoon to become the first American (3rd overall after Gagarin & Titov) to orbit the Earth which he did 3 times over the course of almost 5 hours.

As the 5th human being in space passed over Perth, Australia; the residents there turned on all their home lights, outside lights and vehicle headlights for Glenn as he passed by. The following transcript is from the actual flight after CAPCOM informed Glenn that the citizens of Perth left the lights on for him.

GLENN: “That’s affirmative. Just to my right I can see a big bright pattern of lights apparently right on the coast. I can see the outline of a small town and a very bright light just to the south of it.”

CAPCOM: “Perth and Rockingham you’re seeing there.”

GLENN: “Roger. The lights show up very well and thank everybody for turning them on, will you?”

CAPCOM: “We sure will John.” There was also a slight spook during the flight as Glenn reported seeing mystery particles outside his window……..

GLENN: “This is Friendship Seven. I’ll try to describe what I’m in here. I am in a big mass of some very small particles that are brilliantly lit up like they’re luminescent. I never saw anything like it. They round a little; they’re coming by the capsule, and they look like little stars. A whole shower of them coming by. They swirl around the capsule and go in front of the window and they’re all brilliantly lighted. They probably average maybe 7 or 8 feet apart, but I can see them all down below me, also.”

CAPCOM: “Roger, Friendship Seven. Can you hear any impact with the capsule? Over.”

GLENN: “Negative, negative. They’re very slow; they’re not going away from me more than maybe 3 or 4 miles per hour. They’re going at the same speed I am approximately. They’re only very slightly under my speed. Over.They do, they do have a different motion, though, from me because they swirl around the capsule and then depart back the way I am looking.”

“Are you receiving? Over.”

“There are literally thousands of them.”

“This is Friendship Seven. Am I in contact with anyone? Over.”

Now famously known as “fireflies” they were discovered on subsequent flights to be frost particles on the outside of the craft.

That wasn’t the only spook; in fact disaster was narrowly avoided as the retro package covering the heat shield that is normally jettisoned before reentry would have to be left on, covering the heat shield and possibly affecting stability and the effectiveness. This was because the heat shield itself they believe; had come loose. Upon being told this you can hear a clear change in Glenn’s voice, at one point calling himself, “Friend Seven” instead of the usual “Friendship Seven” that he had been saying before and then again after that moment. During reentry he actually mentioned that the retro pack had burned away and was gone. Luckily, the heat shield stayed intact and splashdown went well.

For those of you with some time on your hands try to tally the amount of times the word “Roger” & “Friendship Seven” were used, it’s actually pretty comical.

Glenn would go on to become senator of Ohio from 1974 to 1999 and on October 29, 1998 at age 77 and 36 years after his last spaceflight, he would once again fly into space onboard STS-95 Discovery as the oldest human in space.

Today he resides in Columbus, Ohio with his wife of 73 years, Annie Castor.

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Pluto Takes the World by the Heart

Taken on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 476,000 mi (768,000 km) by New Horizons.

Taken on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 476,000 mi (768,000 km) by New Horizons.

Taken on July 14, 2015, Just 1.5 hours from close approach and at a distance of only 47,800 mi (77,000 km) by New Horizons.

Taken on July 14, 2015, Just 1.5 hours from close approach and at a distance of only 47,800 mi (77,000 km) by New Horizons.

Images Credit & Copyright: NASA/Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Lab (JHUAPL)/ New Horizons Spacecraft.

What a week it’s been as New Horizons finally makes its Pluto flyby after traveling almost ten years and more than three billion miles to get there. I have been eagerly waiting for the chance to write this but of course it also turned out to be a week that had me working 70+ hours so 3hr sleep took precedence over writing. So with New Horizons rapidly moving into the unknown let’s take a look at some of the incredible imagery that’s already been delivered.

Close approach took place on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 11:49:57 UTC (07:49:57 EDT) and came as close as 8,000 miles from Pluto’s surface. For something that’s been flying through space since January 19, 2006 (3,462d 16h 49m 57s to be exact) and racked up a distance of 31.9 astronomical units (AU) or about three billion miles, that’s what I’d call, threading the needle.

The “Full Pluto” headline image was captured on July 13, from a distance of about 476,000 mi. (768,000 km) and it shows the 1,000 mi. (1,600 km) region known as the Heart of Pluto or the Head of Pluto the Dog in great detail. This image was the last image sent to Earth by New Horizons before close approach.

The second image was captured on July 14 about 1.5 hours before close approach and from a distance of about 47,800 mi. (77,000 km) and it’s just amazing that we’re looking at Pluto from this distance. The young (yes young) 100 million year old surface shows 11,000 ft. (3,500 m) tall ice mountains and it’s uncertain as to what created them. On a 4.5 billion year-old planet, 100 million years isn’t that long ago.

Charon; Pluto's most prominent partner captured on July 13, 2015 by New Horizons from a distance of 289,000 mi (466,000 km).

Charon; Pluto’s most prominent partner captured on July 13, 2015 by New Horizons from a distance of 289,000 mi (466,000 km).


Charon turned out to be a real treat as well. This image, captured by New Horizons on July 13 shows the 729 mi (1,208 km) diameter “moon” from a distance of 289,000 mi (466,000 km). Even at this distance we can clearly make out a large canyon near the top right of the image that appears to be about 5 mi (8 k) deep as well as a rugged line of terrain that crosses the face, near the bottom or just beyond what would be the equatorial region running from middle right to lower left. This cliff region seems to stretch 600 mi (1,000 km) or nearly the entire face of the moon. Of course the region that commands our attention is the dark polar region at the top. Wonderfully angled and dark, speculation seems to be leaning toward a thin layer of material that’s been deposited.



The next set of images shows the Pluto, Charon together as a pair. The images as we have seen above were actually taken separately and later brought together to show a great size and nearly true color side by side of the two. The second, obviously false color image has been highlighted to show differences in land material and formations.


Finally, let’s remember that Pluto and family are tiny in comparison to Earth. The 1,472 mi. (2,370 km) Pluto and the 729 mi. (1,208 km) Charon if placed side by side wouldn’t even cross the United States. Earth’s Moon at 2,159 mi. (3,474 km) is much larger and 5 times more massive than Pluto. Not that size matters in the world of inhabitable planets, I’m just throwing it out there.

New Horizons Main Mission Site:



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NASA New Horizons Page:

Here’s a couple previous Pluto/New Horizons based articles I’ve written:

What Time is it? Pluto Time!

New Horizons Mission is Set to Begin:

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Olympia Moonrise


Image Credit & Copyright: Paul Gicewicz.

I love these, low on the horizon; widefield Moon images. When you see celestial bodies such as the Moon with trees, buildings or landscapes imprinted over them as it rises or sets from behind them it gives you an awesome perspective as to as few important things to include their size.

This image was captured by Paul Gicewicz in Olympia Washington and here we can see as the Moon clears the treetops that even as distant as it is, our partner in the night still dwarfs our landscape. If you ever have the opportunity to watch the Moon rise or set (or Sun, but the Moon is safer to observe) do so because a couple things will become apparent.

The first thing that will come to mind is “wow” because it truly is an inspirational sight. That massive (5x more massive than Pluto by the way) red/orange 2,100 mile diameter rock 240,000 miles away created from the Earth itself after a Mars sized planet impacted the Earth, is being lit by that 865,000 mile diameter thermo-nuclear fusion reactor 93 million miles in the opposite direction. It’s a full dose of cosmic perspective. Something you’ll also notice is just how fast it moves on the sky. It will break the horizon and in just a few minutes it will have cleared the trees to begin its journey across our sky.

Congrats to Paul on a great capture and check out more of his work because his deep sky object (DSO) images are amazing as well.

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Perseverance II


Image Credit & Copyright: Chris Georgia.

Here’s a brilliant new image by Chris Georgia of the Milky Way galaxy, our night sky companion over the Atlantic Ocean and above the oldest National Park east of the Mississippi River; Acadia National Park, near Bar Harbor on Mt. Desert Island, Maine.

In this image you can begin to feel an appreciation for the beauty of this 74 square-mile park and its landscape as well as the effort that goes into keeping it that way. And what about that night sky? The core of the Milky Way rises off the horizon as if it couldn’t make the turn (for our benefit). Along with the beautiful green hint of airglow is the light of a hundred billion stars glowing from beyond the blanket of gas and dust that lies along its plane.

Looking just to the right you see the red supergiant star Antares; the Heart of Scorpius, the scorpion and to the right of that is the always incredible Saturn, the Ringed Planet. Let’s roll our eyes back to the left, back to the galactic nucleus. If you look closely, just to the right of the galactic plane, you can clearly make out what’s known as the “Dark Horse.” It may take a little imagination but you can pretty easily make out its body, legs and head but apparently its tail is obscured or maybe it doesn’t have one, I dunno. Pretty cool though, in my humble opinion.

Thanks so much to Chris for yet another amazing image and check out more of his work in the links below as I can’t possibly show you everything that he produces. And if you’re ever in the area, spend a day and night in the great Acadia National Park.

Christopher M. Georgia Photography:





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