Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Supernova in Galaxy M82

On January 21st a group of astronomy students spotted a supernova in M82, a nearby galaxy in Ursa Major. It continued to swell and seems to have peaked at visual magnitude 10.5 during the first week of February.
I have been trying to photograph this for weeks and have been frustrated by clouds and bad weather.
Last night I finally got a window of (relatively) clear sky between the rain clouds and shot off 20 x 20 second exposures which have been stacked to form the image below. 

The supernova is a superdense white dwarf, a star only about the size of Earth but with the gravitational power of a Sun-sized star which can no longer support itself and suddenly collapses, heats to incredible temperatures, and burns up explosively in a runaway fusion reaction. 
The light from that tiny white dot in the picture has taken 12,000,000 years to reach my telescope. 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Signs of spring

Snowdrops are out on the river bank between Bradley Burn and Wolsingham.
A gentle inspection through the spy hole in the hedgehog house in our nature garden revealed a prickly resident snoring the winter away. We tiptoed away and left it to its slumbers.