Monday, June 25, 2012

Winter cone

  The famous Cone Nebula can be found in the constellation of Monoceros and it's one of those star forming factories in our galaxy which already created a very young star cluster (the Christmas tree, NGC 2264 :) ). S Monocerotis is responsible lighting up the last remains of the "mother - gas cloud". 7 light years across (10 arcminutes) and 2700 light years distant, the Cone Nebula is part of a huge star forming complex in the winter skies, a blend of dark and excited gas and dust clouds.

 I have always wished for a Christmas Tree like this. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cosmic dance and elegance

In their way through space, galaxies usually meet and interact, creating new structures. Thirty years ago a Canadian astronomer (Paul Hickson) created a catalogue of 462 such closely interacting systems, most often composed of 4-5 galaxies as closely packed together as the galaxies in the center of  some clusters of galaxies. We don't know precisely yet how many of  the galaxies in these systems are interacting and how many are just chance alignments, but studies have shown that for about half there is some physical connection involved. 

A theory suggests that these systems are on their way of creating an elliptical galaxy, so stay tuned! 

   Below, the cosmic dance brought together in HCG 44 three spirals and a small elliptical galaxy, NGC 3190, NGC 3193, NGC 3185 and NGC 3187 and signs of their interactions abound (tidal tails, disc distortions...)

Meanwhile in Pegasus, ~40 million light years away, edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 7814 elegantly displays her slightly warped edge-on disc. It is also called Little Sombrero after her closer and larger brother M 104. There are many faint galaxies seen around it and as their light passed through the halo of the galaxy is gets a little redder.

      Elegant, isn't it?

All images taken through the 0.5m Argelander Institute for Astronomy Institute in Bonn.