Blue Hued NGC 1309

Image credit & copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Hubble Legacy Archive & processed by the great night sky imager Martin Pugh.

Located nearly 100 million light years away in the constellation Eridanus is the wonderful spiral galaxy NGC1309.  At about 70,000 light years in diameter it’s much smaller than our star city, the Milky Way.  Like many spiral galaxies this beautiful object is bursting with bright blue arms of star formation while at its core lies much older, yellow masses of stars.  NGC1309 is a member of a group of galaxies numbering over 200 members called the Eridanus Group of Galaxies.

This galaxy also has extremely important historical significance.  On September 17, 2002 light from Type-1a Supernova SN2002FK reached earth and was jointly discovered by Reiki Kushida of the Yatsugatake South Base Observatory, Nagano Prefecture, Japan; and Jun-jie Wang and Yu-Lei Qiu of the Beijing Astronomical Observatory.  Astronomers are now using that standard candle to measure the expansion rate of the universe.  In addition to that supernova, this galaxy is dotted with Cepheid Variable stars.  Those are stars whose brightness fluctuates on a very regular time, with a regular peak brightness and minimum.  These objects are also the going standard in determining space distances.

Up at the 10 o’clock position you can see a distant loosely bound 2-armed Barred Spiral galaxy and, like eyes shining through the bushes in the night, the glow of thousands  more galaxies can be seen in the very distant background, glowing in a faint yellow hue.

Name: NGC 1309.

What is it?: Spiral Galaxy.

How big is it?: About 70,000 light years in diameter (2.3’ x 2.2’).

How far away is it?: Roughly 100 million light years.

Apparent magnitude: 11.5 (very faint).

Where is it? (General): Constellation Eridanus (The River).

Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA: 3h 22m 5s / DEC: -15d 23’ 49”.

NASA Hubblesite article and photo of NGC1309:

NASA Hubblesite News Center page for this image:

ESA Space Telescope page on NGC1309:

ESA Space Telescope page on NGC1309:

Hubble Heritage Project page for this image:

Martin Pugh main site:

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Destruction of NGC 922

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

150 million light years away lies the remains of a cosmic murder. It appears that as we see it, NGC 922 here was shot through the heart (cue the Bon Jovi music) some 330 million years ago, killing the spiral galaxy that it once was.

So what do we have for clues here? Well for starters the galaxy is now a ring galaxy with its core now destroyed and vast circular ripples radiating through the structure like ripples from dropping a rock in water. We also have vast regions of star formation created by the shockwave of material as it distorts and compresses the gas and dust that were once spiral arms. As they come to life, the telltale pink hue of star forming nebulae dominates the area.

It’s been observed by the Chandra X-ray telescope that this galaxy also contains at least a couple handful of stellar mass black holes upwards of ten solar masses; at least seven of which are currently feeding.

What about clues as to how this ring galaxy looks as it’s not exactly an obvious ring. If the aggressor punched through the nucleus of this galaxy face on the ring structure would likely be more defined. That means that this collision, even though it passes through the nucleus, was at a steep angle which disturbed the galaxy in a much different way.

So we have the galaxy, its shape and classification, star formation, stellar mass black holes and by the state of things and knowing how long things take to progress all over the universe we should be able to trace, like blood spatter, the culprit that created this mess.

Well it turns out they have and its name is 2MASXI J0224301-244443 and in wide field images of this region it can still be seen speeding away from the scene.

Of course the personification of this galaxy is just being used as an example to illustrate how astronomers, like forensic detectives, have to comb through objects like these very carefully to determine what they’re looking at. Timelines, formations, actions, different wavelength observations, comparisons to like objects seen in previous cases etc. and as new means to investigate are brought to bear, they can even go back and someday solve some current cosmic cold cases.

NAME: NGC 922.

WHAT IS IT?: Ring galaxy and former galaxy involved in a collision where 330 million years ago a smaller galaxy pierced its heart.

HOW BIG IS IT?: 75,000 light years in diameter.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 150 million light years.

APPARENT MAGNITUDE: 12 (very dim).

WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Fornax.

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 02h 25m 04.40s / Dec -24° 47′ 17.00″.

ESA Space Telescope page for this image:

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

India to Launch the Massive GSLV MK-III on its 1st Operation Flight

Image credit & copyright: India Space Research Organization (ISRO).

LAUNCH ALERT! Monday, June 5, 2017 at 11:58 UTC (07:58 EDT), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will be launching for only the second time, the massive Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MK-III, carrying the GSAT-19E experimental communication satellite from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India.

This will be the 2nd flight of the GSLV MK-III rocket and its 1st orbital flight.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arianespace Ariane 5 Dual Payload Launch

Image credit & copyright: ESA/CNES/Arianespace of the VA236 launch.

LAUNCH ALERT: Thursday, June 1, 2017 at 23:45 UTC (19:45 EDT) Arianespace will launch their massive heavy lift, Ariane 5 ECA rocket, designated VA237. This mission will deliver a dual payload of ViaSat 2 and Eutelsat 172B communication satellites.

Launch will take place from Launch Site, Ensemble de Lancement Ariane-3 (ELA-3) at the Arianespace Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This will be the 93rd launch of the Ariane 5 and its 3rd launch in 2017.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpaceX CRS-11 to Mark the 100th Launch from LC-39A

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX. Live streaming links and mission information below.

LAUNCH ALERT: Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 17:07 EDT (21:07 UTC), a SpaceX Falcon 9 will rise from NASA’s legendary Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) as part of Commercial Resupply Service 11 (CRS-11 or SPX-11) to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Dragon will be captured and berthed to the nadir side of Station’s Harmony module (Node-2) on Sunday, June 4 where it will remain for approximately one month before returning to Earth.

This mission will mark the 100th launch from the historic LC-39A (Project Apollo 11, Skylab, Shuttle 82, SpaceX 6).  This flight will also be the first re-use of a Dragon spacecraft.  Dragon capsule C106 was successfully flown on SpaceX’s CRS-4 mission launched on September 21, 2014 and recovered on October 25, 2014.

This will be SpaceX’s 35th Falcon 9 flight (F935) and the parameters of this mission will allow for a Return To Landing Site (RTLS) where the first stage of the Falcon 9 will return to, and land back at Cape Canaveral at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) (former LC-13) allowing them to forego landing on their East Coast Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY).  If successful this will be SpaceX’s 11th landing overall; 6 on drone ships and 5 on land.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JAXA H-IIA to Launch Michibiki 2 Satellite

Image credit & copyright: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Launch Alert: Wednesday, May 31, 2017 at 20:20 EDT (00:20 UTC on June 1st), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will be launching the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA (H-2A) rocket; Launch Vehicle No. 34 (F34) flying in its 202 configuration (H-IIA 202). It will be carrying the Michibiki 2 navigation satellite from Launch Area-Y1 (Also known as Area-Y1 or LA-Y1) at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), Japan.

Continue reading

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Birth in the Bull

Image credit & copyright: Adam Block/Mt. Lemmon Sky Center.

Roughly 500 light years away in the northern constellation Taurus “The Bull” is this incredible reflection nebula cataloged as Sharpless 2-239, which itself is imbedded in the Taurus Molecular Cloud. What we’re actually looking at here is a group of newborn stars roaring into life; particularly IRS5 or HH154, a newborn binary pair that’s making the biggest splash here in this image.  As its jets impact the surrounding star forming hydrogen material warms and illuminates that region.

Name: Sharpless 2-239, Sh 2-239.

What is it?: Stellar birth.

How far away is it?: About 500 light years.

Where is it? (General): Constellation Taurus “The Bull.”

Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 04h 31m 18s / Dec +18° 06′ 00″.

Adam Block:



University of Arizona SkyCenter:

U/A SkyCenter Facebook:


Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment