Traverse City Record-Eagle


St. Patrick’s Day Celestial Treats

Ed HahnenbergOn 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!

  • GenePH

    Ed, let us know when the moon is in the Seventh HouseAnd Jupiter aligns with Mars, .

    • Ed Hahnenberg

      You are referring of course to the song “The age of Aquarius.” I had a huge junior choir back in the late 60s and directed them in the rendition of it. However, the composers of this song obviously didn’t mean us to take their lyrics too literally however because Jupiter and Mars align so frequently, and the Moon travels through the 7th house once every day, that we would have been through innumerable ‘dawning’s’ since the 1960′s if we were to follow them to the letter…astrologically that is.

      • CathyStripeLester

        It’s interesting how people want to believe hooey… I used to read palms just for fun, but I gave it up when I realized people were strongly believing what I said, even when I told them I was making it up! One person said I must have been “inspired” to read the truth even though I thought I wasn’t. What can you do with that attitude???

        • Henry Klugh

          You can start a religion!

        • Ed Hahnenberg

          Cathy…I enjoy the Mentalist…Simon Baker as Patrick Jane. In a few episodes he has to disavow his past career as a sham spiritualist. Only as he takes on work as a CBI consultant does he use what he learned in that former profession to close cases. Or, as Henry suggests, you could become a L. R. Hubbard and found a similar Scientology sect and take on another life as a thetan to boot!

  • Ed Hahnenberg

    I have to correct myself in identifying M105 (photo 3 in the blog). I just bought an excellent resource book, “The Deep Space Image Catalog” by Roger Blake. The book gives astro photos and identifies them. One of the images in the book is of the Leo Group; however in the Leo Group at a wide FOV, there are three Messier objects:The Leo Group actually contains between 8 and 24 galaxies, including three Messier objects: M105, M96, and M105. However M105, also known as NGC 3379, is surrounded more closely by two galaxies, NGC 3384 and NGC 3373.

    The error occurred when I identified M105 as the bottom center one in my image. Actually, that one is NGC 3384. M105 is top right in my photo. The third irregular galaxy is NGC 3373, and that is to the left of my photo.

    I hope that clears that up.

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