On St. Patrick’s Day there was a double treat in the heavens. The moon was a waxing crescent topped off by the planet Jupiter. Unfortunately Jupiter will be ending its nighttime appearance come Spring. The calendar says the season is three days away, but the weather doesn’t seem to be taking advice from it. Forecast for the near future calls for 6-10 inches of snow, but tonight is one of the clearest this winter.
I took advantage of the cloudless evening to image both the moon and Jupiter. See photos below.
Also on last evening’s schedule was a triple galaxy collection in the constellation Leo. However, as so often happens in winter, clouds moved in just as I was beginning a sequence of image taking.
However, as the luck of the Irish would have it, tonight M105 (bottom center) was in excellent position, along with two traveling galaxies.
M105, an elegant elliptical (bottom center) is perhaps the purest object in the Messier catalog. By that I mean its slightly oval disk shows the least amount of imperfection. Its central core shines brilliantly. Then a bright inner region gives way to an outer halo that fades gradually and uniformly into the cloak of darkness.
Since the night was cloudless and crisp, I sought out another DSO I had never imaged … galaxy NGC 3184. It is pretty much a face on galaxy and it resembles the famous Pinwheel Galaxy M101 in the same constellation of Ursa Major.
The name of this gem is the Little Pinwheel Galaxy. Both M101 and NGC 3184 are about 60,000 light-years in diameter, but the Little Pinwheel is twice as distant at 36 million light-years. NGC 3184′s core harbors old mature stars, and the spiral arms show several red regions amid clusters of young blue-white stars.
It was quite an evening … and if you were out that night, it was one to celebrate celestially!