Archive | April 2011

Seriously, stuff is falling off that building.

I was welcomed home tonight by the flashing lights of police/fire department and told I couldn’t go past the tape.. fourtunately that was 10 feet passed my building. The reason stuff was falling off the building site across the street!
What I was welcomed home to
Building falling apart on 10th st...
Oh well. I was a bit concerned at first but all has been nicely dealt with by the fire brigade.
platform back in place...
It made for some interesting tweets (well maybe), e.g, [“looks like they are getting are fixing the issue…. it might be almost safe… #yyc #fb”]
There is a [Calgary Herald] article too.

M51 – the Whirpool Galaxy

M51 – the Whirpool Galaxy
M51 - the whirpool galaxy
[Full version of image]
[The Whirlpool Galaxy], M51, is probably the best known galaxy in the sky – it clearly shows spiral structure and is probably one of the first images most people will think of when thinking of galaxies. It is better described as a grand-spiral galaxy, [SA(s)]. It is some [23 million light years away] but is clearly visible with a pair of binoculars and some steady hands (it can be found in the constellation of Canes Venatici). Interestingly, the companion galaxy seen at the end of the whirlpool (NGC 5195) is actually interacting. The gas in the galaxy is disturbed as the result compression, common in galaxy interactions, causes formation of new stars!
Oh and being a radio astronomer I think I should also point out this cool image of [M51 at 21cm] – not many galaxies are resolved like this at radio wavelengths.
This photo was short-listed in the the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2009 competition.

M57 – Ring Nebula

M57 – Ring Nebula
Ring Nebula
[Full version of image]
[M57 – the Ring Nebula] is one of the best examples of planetary nebulae (PNe) in the sky.. A planetary nebulae is the end point in the life of a star. Medium and low mass stars, like the Sun eventually run of material to fuse in the stellar core. The object expands, as a means to achieve equilibrium and as the internal temperature changes their can be energetic events that cause an expanding gaseous shall to be form around the central star. The gas is then illuminated by the remaining white dwarf star. The Ring Nebula is some [2,300 light years] from the Earth. Thus its angular extent is quite small and to get any vague idea of the shape of the object requires a telescope and a dark site.

M20 – The Trifid Nebula

M20 – The Trifid Nebula
[Full version of image]
[The Trifid Nebula] consists of both an emission nebula and a reflection nebula – making it look truly stunning. When William Herschel first observed this object it was given 4 distinct classifications, though the Messier catalogue has it down as one object – M20 (but its also called a cluster of stars!). The structure of this object is given by the red-glowing gas which comes from the interstellar hydrogen gas being ionized by the young stars whilst the dark regions are mostly likely created by the debris from supernovae.

M13 – Great Globular Cluster in Hercules

M13 – Great Globular Cluster in Hercules
M13  - globular star cluster.
[Full version of image]
[M13] is one of the best known clusters of the northern hemisphere. It is some 25,100 light years away with a diameter of 145 light years and as such is orbiting around the Galaxy as a satellite. It is a collection of stars that are gravitationally held together and most stars are at a similar point in their stellar evolution.It is, however, unclear whether the stars formed in one generation or are from multiple generations. Some 150 globular clusters are know to orbit the Milky Way (our galaxy) and I think M13 is probably the most striking. It is a good binocular object appearing as a large, diffuse but bright ball forming he point of a triangle with some outer stars probably resolved.

M17 – the Omega Nebula

M17 – the Omega Nebula
m17 - the omega nebula
[Full version of image]
[M17 – the Omega Nebula] is between 5,000 and 6,000 light-years from Earth and it spans some 15 light-years in diameter! It is also known as the Swan Nebula and the Horseshoe Nebula, I’m not convinced I agree with any of these names, either from my image or from images at higher resolution / better imaging. Then again [John Herschel’s] low resolution view of this object [suggests it really was an “Omega” shape]. As brightest galactic nebula in the northern sky the object is a fairly good binocular target, so get out their and take a look!

NGC 6960 – The Veil Nebula

NGC 6960 – The Veil Nebula
The Veil Nebula
[The Veil Nebula] (NGC6960) is part of a supernova remnant known as the Cygnus Loop. The supernovae is thought to have exploded some 8,000 years ago and is some 1,500 light-years away from us. The explosion would have been so bright it would have been similar in brightness to the crescent Moon.

FITS files in Python

[Pyfits] is a really useful python module that allows you to read in and write out [FITS] files. Since most astronomical data comes in FITS file format its darn important that you can read them in. Here are some basic instructions on how todo this:
Firstly ensure you have the most useful pre-requisites ([Pyfits], [numpy ], [scipy]) and import them:
import pyfits, numpy, scipy
Now read in the file:
input_file = “A.fits”
hdulist =
Get the data:
img_data = hdulist[0].data
Get the header:
img_header = hdulist[0].header
To read a specific item from the header:
h3 = float(hdulist[0].header[‘CDELT3’])
To update a specific header item:
To output the FITS file, overwritting if necessary and converting to 32bit floats:

M8 – the Lagoon nebula

Continuing my posting of astronomical images I have taken…
M8 – the Lagoon nebula
Lagoon nebula
[Full version of image]
[The Lagoon nebula] is starforming region full of young stars. It is about 4,000 light years away and 100 light years in size. It was discovered by Hodierna before 1654 and independently found by Flamsteed around 1680. It can be found with binoculars but it pretty challenging and probably not worth trying unless you have excellent sky conditions. It is much fainter than the Orion nebula, so don’t expect to see that kind of clarity.

Mid April Dump of snow

I woke up this morning to see a glorious white scene.. and sigh, its back again. This place and its bloomin’ snow. I used to love snow days (I still kinda do) but come on Calgary its April already, just rain! Oh well, made for an “interesting” walk into work as for once the snow was wet like come.. so slide slide slide. Pretty cool scenery though:
Yes in the above photo that is a massive pile up of snow.. if you are from the UK then you are probably not familiar with this.. but it happens all the time here…. and lasts for ages.
Few more photos from my commute to work can be found [on my flickr account]