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Galactic Gridlock

Most of the universe is empty space. So, if you randomly point a telescope or binoculars at the night sky, you will likely see a few stars, but probably not much will catch your attention. With a more intentional approach, your chance of seeing something noteworthy increases dramatically. For example, if you point your instrument closer to the Milky Way (aka the Galactic Plane or the Galactic Equator) you will certainly improve your chances of spotting some cool targets. The image below was originally just a test image for the Wide Field Rig during the early days of the Bent Nail Observatory, and the scope was pointed in the Milky Way. It has so much going on that I had to share it.

Note that the Galactic Equator bisects theimage. This means we are zoomed into the Milky Way in this frame.

If we look at the top of the image, we see M38. It is a Messier object as denoted by the M prefix and was the first of these objects to be discovered in the mid 1600's. M38 is a beautiful open cluster that reveals the shape of a cross in it’s structure. M38 is also referred to as the Starfish Cluster. While it does not look as bright as the nebulae in this frame, it would appear as the most prominent object to a visual observer using a telescope. It is roughly 4,200 light-years away from us and has a diameter of approximately 24 light years.


The next door neighbour of M38 is another, smaller open cluster, NGC1907. It is roughly the same distance from us at 4,200 light-years, but is only 6 light-years in diameter. These two clusters together are a fun target for the Skyward 150 telescope that you can borrow from the Blue Door Astro Library.


IC417, often referred to as the "Spider Nebula," is a stellar nursery, where new stars are born from the dense clouds of gas and dust. The intricate patterns and structures within IC417 are sculpted by the intense radiation and powerful winds from the young, hot stars. In the future, this would be a fine target for the Mid Field Rig to get more detailed images!


NGC1931, often referred to as the "Fly" Nebula, is a combination of an open star cluster and an emission nebula, making it a unique celestial object. Its vibrant colors and intricate patterns are a testament to the dynamic processes occurring within it. NGC1931 is also a hub of stellar birth, where new stars are constantly being formed from the surrounding gas and dust. Observers often liken its appearance to a cosmic insect, hence its nickname.


NGC 1893 is a gorgeous open star cluster nestled within the heart of the IC 410 nebula, approximately 12,000 light-years away from Earth. What makes NGC 1893 particularly captivating is its association with the iconic "Tadpole Nebula," named for the tadpole-shaped structures formed by interstellar winds and radiation from the cluster's brilliant young stars. These tadpoles, which are actually dense knots of gas and dust, stretch over 10 light-years in length. I have acquired some higher resolution images of the tadpoles that I will share in the coming days.

The Tadpoles are illuminated gas structures, and about 10 light-years in length

At a distance of only about 1,500 light years from Earth, IC405 is the nearest object described in this frame. Commonly known as the Flaming Star Nebula, it spans a diameter of approximately 5 light years. The nebula's vibrant hues and intricate patterns are a result of the interplay between ionized gas and the intense radiation from the star AE Aurigae. What makes AE Aurigae particularly fascinating is its origin story. It is believed to have been ejected from a binary pairing in the Orion Nebula region approximately 2.7 million years ago. As it speeds through space, AE Aurigae ionizes and disrupts any gas it passes through, creating a visually stunning spectacle.

AE Aurigae illuminates the flames in the Flaming Star Nebula by ionizing hydrogen and sulfur gasses

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