The phrase “Magnificent Desolation” was used by Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin to describe his view shortly after he became the second person to step out onto the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969. The photo shown here is centered on the relatively young crater Copernicus located just south of Mare Imbrium. This impact crater is 93 km in diameter and approximately 3.8 km deep. The rugged terrain seen here is a reminder of the magnificent desolation that is characteristic of our nearest neighbor in the solar system. This image was secured by Dr. Michael Joner using the 0.9-meter reflector operating at f/11 on site at the BYU West Mountain Observatory just after last quarter phase in early September 2018.
The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp composite image, a 25 panel mosaic, nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions that trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe. This image using data from the BYU West Mountain Observatory and the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea was featured as the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day for December 20, 2012. Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler, Subaru Telescope (NAOJ) Image data: Subaru Telescope, Robert Gendler, Michael Joner and David Laney; Brigham Young University West Mountain Observatory, and Johannes Schedler
A recent article that appeared in the Astronomical Journal (Joner and Hintz, 2015, AJ, 150, 204), established a new photometric system based on a pair of filter functions used to measure the strength of the H-alpha line in stars. The paper presented H-alpha and H-beta indices for 136 field and cluster stars that were observed with the 1.2-meter telescope at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory during an 11 year period. The indices were determined from spectro-photometry of the thousands of spectra exposures. The figure to the left shows a relation for normal main sequence stars between the new H-alpha index and the more than 60 year old H-beta index. Color-color plots like this one are useful in surveys to detect objects of astrophysical interest that display emission features of various strengths. These extreme objects are easily seen in a color-color plot. One High Mass X-ray Binary recently observed for a followup study was located at (0.87,1.87) in the color-color plot.
This image was secured during the installation of the 0.9-m telescope at the BYU West Mountain Observatory. Data for this image is from August 27, 2009. This was the first night that a CCD detector had been mounted on the telescope so that imaging was possible. This 'First Light' image shows the globular cluster known as M15 in the constellation of Pegasus. The distance to this cluster is more than 33,000 light years and yet individual stars are easily resolved all through the cluster. Globular cluster stars have an extremely low abundance of heavy elements compared to stars found in the solar neighborhood and represent the oldest population of stars known in the Galaxy. Stars in M15 are known to have a heavy element abundance more than 100 times lower than the Sun. It is interesting to note the many cool red giant stars that are visible in the cluster as well as a large number of evolved horizontal branch stars that are blue in color. Many of the horizontal branch stars are known to be RR Lyrae variable stars that are useful as distance indicators since it is possible to determine their luminosity and compare that to their apparent magnitude measured from observed images. The color image processing for this picture is the work of renowned image processing expert, Dr. Rob Gendler.
The small black spot projected on the Sun just above the foreground clouds in Provo is caused by the planet Venus as it transits for the last time this century. The transits of Venus come in pairs separated by eight years that only occur after a period of 105 or 122 years without a transit visible from the Earth. If you missed this event, the next opportunity will be in December of 2117. Finding the transit of an Earth sized planet across a stellar photosphere was the primary mission of the Kepler spacecraft as it searched for extrasolar planets up through August 2013. The difficulty of this mission is apparent when you note the small fraction of the Sun's light that is blocked by the transit of a planet the size of Venus.
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Mike Joner et al. recently published an article titled "A dearth of small particles in the transiting material around the white dwarf WD 1145+017" in Monthly Notices of The Royal Astronomical Society. Click on the image above to read it.
Gibbous Moon beyond Swedish Mountain : This is a gibbous Moon. More Earthlings are familiar with a full moon, when the entire face of Luna is lit by the Sun, and a crescent moon, when only a sliver of the Moon's face is lit....
This photograph and Description come from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day web site.