The Trifid nebula, whose name means “divided in 3 lobes” is an amateur favorite. An island of HII region which is the red portion (HII regions are emission nebulae created when young, massive stars ionise nearby hydrogen gas clouds with high-energy UV radiation causing the gas to emit red light) , a blue “reflection “portion which occurs when light of the nearby massive blue stars reflects off of the dust, and a “dark nebula” portion which divides the nebula into its 3 lobes. There is also an open cluster of stars in the field. The Trifid is 5000 light years away toward the center of out galaxy, hence the very dense surrounding star fields and dust.
I completed my test of the Tak FS120 imaging capability and you can see the result below. I was pretty happy with it, especially considering the very modest set up I am using (see last entry) . For the full resolution image you can click on the thumbnail on the right side of the blog under “my astroimages”. I am looking forward to more projects with it!
Until next time. Thanks for reading!
M20, the Trifid. Single raw image 5 minutes.
This is the fully processed result! 33 x 5 minutes or close to 3 hours of data. I tried not to overprocess it but to preserve the natural nebula colors and bring out the background dust behind the dense star fields.
“Practice staring at the Milky Way if you want to gain some understanding of its structure”, J Robert Oppenheimer. (Astronomy Magazine July 2016 p.51 Richard Wilds author)
Sound advice from the first director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory! The same advice he gave to Russian born astrophysicist Sergei Gaposchkin, who spent his free time drawing the entire Milky Way in ink from his viewing site at Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia in the late 50’s! So I decided, now that I had a dark sky viewing site I would do the same, armed with a reproduced representation of the Milky Way, that was created by Dr Gaposchkin, published by Astronomy Magazine showing the details of the Southern Milky Way with all the dark nebulosity sweeps and curves. I encourage everyone to read this excellent article by Richard Wilds in the July issue of Astronomy. Anyway from my dark sky viewing site in Mayhill NM at Mintaka Hill, I can see the Milky way all the way to the horizon. We’re a Bortle 2 sky on a scale of 1 to 9. It’s very dark. Not too many areas like this certainly in the continental US. It’s a spectacle you cannot get tired of. Even without a telescope or anything other than my eye, every time I have a chance to get outside up here I make a point of doing so. Last night at around 1:30 the Milky Way was directly overhead. We are obviously still in the Northern Hemisphere so we can see down to just below Sagittarius into the constellation Lupus. I had always known that Sagittarius was the direction of the “center of the galaxy” and I have been able to see fairly dense star clouds in the area at other sites such as my home 2 hours from here in Las Cruces, NM but nothing that really looked like an actual galaxy center structurally, until now. After about 15 minutes of dark adaptation I began to notice a distinct nebulosity extending from Sagittarius and seeming to wrap around the head of Scorpius. The width of this “bulge” was about twice that of the main Milky Way band. Inside of the bulge was an area consisting of smaller streaks and waves of dark patches, obviously dust. AHA! The Central Bulge of the Milky Way is discovered! Honestly it is like being transported in a space ship right into the heart of any edge on galaxy you may have observed, right next to the galaxy’s core! So check it out the next time you have a chance to observe in a dark site..and take Astronomy July issue page 51 with you. Thanks for reading!
Illustration of what this area looks like from up in Mayhill NM. Reproduced from the application Stellarium and stretched in Photoshop to recreate as closely as possible what is seen with the naked eye. The edge on view of our galaxy’s core extends from the bottom of the teapot in Sagittarius and extends all the way past Antares which is a great landmark visually. Antares is in the constellation Scorpius (actually more correct than “Scorpio”, and typo in Sagittarius, sorry!) That constellation always reminds me of a lawn chair. Antares is at the foot of the chair. “CB” or the Central Bulge as it is referred to in drawings is at the head of the chair! The width of this structure was much greater than I realized! Note Mars and Saturn which are really bright now.