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The Sky This Month - May 2007

Posted in
Written by Gary Boyle, Ottawa on
Post Date: 
Wed, 2007/05/02

Bizzion Galaxies

If you are a lover of distant galaxies, you must be full of joy at this time of year. Stretching from the Bowl of Ursa Major all the down to the highly populated grouping known as the Virgo cluster, literally hundreds of galaxies are available for your choosing. Depending on the light gathering power of your telescope, some might be out of your viewing range. But do not fret; there is a nice combo of semi bright and extremely faint grey smudges to choose from.  

 

 

(Charts reproduced and modified from TheSky)
As we continue from last month’s review starting with the Big Bear himself, we continue snaking our way down the path of cosmic islands. Leaving Ursa Majoris, we slide down to Canes Venatici to the brightest galaxy of this constellation. M94 is a slightly elongated elongated, tightly wound galaxy with a very bright core. Even face-on this 14 million light year (ly) object still glows at magnitude 8.2 and is a definite stop on your galactic survey. Detailed images show active star forming regions (in red) dotted along the outer edges of the galaxy like a string of pearls.

 

 

(Photo by Serge Theberge)
Move your scope less than five degrees to the west to swoop upon M63. Just a tad fainter then its Messier neighbour, the magnitude 8.6 Sunflower Galaxy is estimated at some 33 million ly away. The above photo was captured by Serge Theberge and shows many more emission nebulae. Pierre Méchain discovered it on June 14, 1779 the same day the great comet hunter Charles Messier included the entry in his famous catalog of celestial objects.

As an offset, look for the highly resolved globular cluster registered as M3. Just on naked eye limits it lights up the eyepiece at magnitude 6.2 and is only 33,000 ly in our Milky Way Galaxy and takes up about half the size of the full moon. Well enough of this bright light stuff – its back to galaxies.

Lower your telescope to the constellation Coma Berenices until you come across an inverted letter “Y”, more commonly known as Mel 111. Now that you are here, you must find and enjoy the edge-on beauty of NGC 4565. Pretty well any instrument will reveal its sharp dust lane – dark interstellar cloud and star soot which obscures light. Take your time on this 31 million ly gem. Toward the upper boundary of this constellation is a pretty pair of 10th magnitude galaxies. NGC 4274 and NGC 4278 show up nicely in a wide angle eyepiece. Lying within the size of the moon they take on the orientation of elongated and round respectively. In fact NGC 4274 produced Supernova 1999ev.

Now we come to the piece de resistance, the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. This is by far the Mecca of galactic groups. You can easily spend a couple of nights in this region. Although it is referred as Virgo, many fine galaxies also populate Coma to the north. So where do we begin? Frankly anywhere you want. There are far too many to list in this article.

I love to begin looking at the great galaxy group of M84 and M86 (the brightest two round galaxies) along with a few other NGCs in a wide field of view.  84 and 86 are both estimated at about 60 million ly away and are magnitudes 9.1 and 8.6 respectively.

 

 

Close to the 12th magnitude limits are the team of NGC 4550 and NGC 4551. Although they seem close together, they are not interacting with each other.

By far the take in the astronomical community is the preliminary findings of Gliese 581c to sport a possible Earth like planet in a very important way. Known as the Goldie Locks scale, such as this planet is too hot – this planet is too cold, but this one is just right to hold liquid water whick could lead to life of some sort. The planet is about one and a half time our size and gravity would be about twice that as on Earth. Gliese 518 actually possesses three planets in its system.

The planetary system circles a cooler red giant and the planet in question is so close, it orbits the star in a mere 13 days. Temperatures are estimated to range from 0 degrees C to about plus 40 degrees C. Gliese 581 is located on the constellation Libra and is a stone’s through at only 20 ly away. Stay tuned as this new discovery unravels.

Be sure to check the western skies on Saturday evening May 19th as the Moon and Venus paint another lovely portrait. Our dear satellite will really be in the news at the end of the month. May 31 will deal us another full moon in the same month. This second full Moon is called a Blue Moon.

The Moon itself does not change colour but there has been a few instances in recorded history when the Moon and even the Sun appeared blue in the sky. The spectrum of light was altered during volcanoes and more recently during the forest fires in the western provinces.

 

Object

Type

Magnitude

RA

DEC

M3

Globular cluster

6.4

13h 43m

28d 20m

M53

Globular cluster

7.7

13h 13m

18d 07m

M63

Elongated galaxy

8.6

13h 16m

42d 02m

M65

Elongated galaxy

9.3

11h 19m

13d 02m

M84

Round galaxy

9.3

12h 25m

12d 50m

M86

Round galaxy

9.2

12h 26m

12d 54m

M90

Elongated galaxy

9.5

12h 37m

13d 07m

M94

Elongated galaxy

8.2

12h 51m

41d 04m

M95

Barred galaxy

9.7

10h 44m

11d 19m

NGC3344

Round galaxy

10.0

10h 43m

24d 52m

NGC3377

Elongated galaxy

10.2

10h 48m

13d 56m

NGC3486

Round galaxy

10.3

11h 01m

28d 55m

NGC3489

Round galaxy

10.3

11h 00m

13d 51m

NGC3521

Elongated galaxy

8.9

11h 06m

00d 04m

NGC3607

Round galaxy

10.0

11h 17m

18d 00m

NGC3640

Round galaxy

10.3

11h 21m

03d 11m

NGC4151

Round galaxy

10.4

12h 11m

39d 22m

NGC4214

Spiral galaxy

9.7

12h 16m

36d 17m

NGC4244

Edge-on galaxy

10.2

12h 18m

37d 46m

NGC4261

Round galaxy

10.3

12h 19m

05d 46m

NGC4274

Elongated galaxy

10.4

12h 20m

29d 34m

NGC4278

Round galaxy

10.2

12h 20m

29d 14m

NGC4380

Round galaxy

12.0

12h 26m

09d 59m

NGC4411

Round galaxy

12.8

12h 27m

08d 49m

NGC4490

Spiral galaxy

9.8

12h 31m

41d 36m

NGC4550

Edge-on galaxy

11.6

12h 36m

12d 10m

NGC4551

Round galaxy

11.9

12h 36m

12d 13m

NGC4559

Elongated galaxy

9.9

12h 36m

27d 55m

NGC4565

Edge-on galaxy

9.6

12h 37m

25d 56m

NGC4606

Elongated galaxy

11.9

12h 41m

11d 52m

NGC4725

Elongated galaxy

9.2

12h 51m

25d 28m

NGC5005

Elongated galaxy

9.8

13h 11m

37d 01m

 

As the weeks till by, so are your chances in seeing the ringed marvel – Saturn before she sink into the western haze. Jupiter is now announcing itself around midnight at the first of the month and 10 p.m. locally by month’s end. The red planet Mars is sharing the constellation of Aquarius with the distant planet Uranus. Both planets were peeking about the east horizon a little before astronomical twilight begins.

Until next month,

Clear skies everyone

 

Gary Boyle