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Clear Skies and nebulae

On Tuesday I took Astrosoc out to the University of Birmingham Observatory at Wast Hills for a BBQ (pictures from the social side later) and a night of observing. It was a fantastic night with probably the most clear skies I’ve ever seen at Wast Hills, for the visual observers they claim to have had the best view of the Milky Way ever at Wast Hills (to even see it is a almost a shock given we aren’t too far out of the city).
Since the title of the post includes nebulae lets start with them. We managed to get some decent images of some lovely nebulous regions. We started off the night, well it was still fairly light when we got this image, with the Ring Nebula (M57, 2x30s BRV):
Ring Nebula
We also observed the Lagoon nebula – M8 ( 2x10s BRV ) is a giant interstellar cloud in the constellation Sagittarius. It is classified as an emission nebula and as an H II region.
Lagoon nebula
The Veil Nebula, also known as the Cygnus Loop or the Witch’s Broom Nebula, is a large, relatively faint supernova remnant in the constellation Cygnus (2x30s in BVR).
The Veil Nebula
We took a quick view of IC5070 – Pelican Nebula (30s BRV) – I’m pretty sure we can do much better than this quick snapshot but it does show some nice dense gas clouds:
Pelican Nebula
M97 – Owl Nebula (30s BRV) showing the eyes and maybe a bit more – slightly deeper required:
Owl Nebula
M27 – Dumbbell Nebula (30s BRV):
Dumbell Nebula
IC 5146 – Cocoon Nebula (30s BRV):
Cocoon Nebula
A close second to the Veil nebula in my favourite image of the night, M20 – the Trifid Nebula is an H II region located in Sagittarius (2x30s BRV):
Trifid Nebula
We weren’t so successful with the North American Nebula, NGC7000 – North American Nebula (30s BRV) taken at Wast Hills – clearly no nebulosity can be seen (thus we either didn’t observe deep enough or in the wrong patch of the nebula as it is fairly large):
North American Nebula
Star Clusters:
Wild Duck cluster (M11; 30s BVR)
Wild Duck Cluster
NGC6760 – a globular cluster in the constellation Aquila (30s BRV):
Moving a bit further away… M63 – the Sunflower Galaxy (30s BVR):
Sunflower Galaxy
M108 (30s BRV):
Stephan’s quintet – 4 of which are part of a compact galaxy group (30s R):
Stephan's quintet
M31 – the centre of the Andromeda Galaxy (30s BRV)
Andromeda Galaxy
M51 – The Whirlpool Galaxy (2x30s BRV):
The Whirlpool Galaxy
NGC 6822 – Barnard’s Galaxy is in this field though not very clear, it is probably the faint nebulous region (30s BRV):
Barnards Galaxy

Last Week In pictures

My week started off with my Monday evening astronomy class at the botanical gardens… we actually got to go observing! They have a few of the trees there lit up for Christmas, looks quite nice and its not too light polluting:
On Tuesday I took a quick trip out to the University Observatory to fix an issue with our imaging camera… all sorted. It was a lovely day, unlike today (I was intending to do some observing out there tonight):
I also went to the IoP public talk here at the University of Birmingham on Tuesday night (the talk was excellent and it was on the “Star of Bethlehem”) and there was a lovely sunset beforehand:
Ok so maybe not a full week but I’ve not gotten around to sorting out the rest of the pics from the week as I’ve got a cold….

Home sweet, home…

… is not in Alabama! I’m from Birmingham in England (the original Birmingham!) but it seems our city council are destined to think we are actually in Birmingham, Alabama…. [Chiefs admit Brum skyline mix-up ]. Bloody idiots. Anyone who has lived in Birmingham for a few years would easily be able to tell you, though it looks like a city environment, that is not the Birmingham city centre skyline… oh and I think I have one of those leaflets somewhere!

IYA2009 Trailer…

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 has a trailer… so be prepared…

Save physics, forget the cheerleader.

As I’m sure you are all probably aware by now, if you read this blog you are, Physics is facing a massive cut in funding (about £80million, so 4 premiership football players!). The reasons are multiple and you can read many of this elsewhere, such as at []. I recommend you taking a read there, it has all the background stuff you need to know. Anyway, yesterday the undergraduates at Birmingham did a sterling job of trying to promote the petition to the UK prime minister.
Oh and if you believe that this should be stopped show your support by petitioning the UK prime minister at: []

The War On Democracy Documentary

The War On Democracy by John Pilger – I watched this the other week and I meant to post about it then – this is an eye opening (and independent) documentary that I would recommend anyone watched. He shows how the USA is undermining so much progress that Latin American countries such as Venezuela are making… if you want to watch it you can find it [here] (google streaming video)

Black Google Would Save Energy

It is believed that an all white computer screen, such as the Google page, uses 74 watts to display, whereas a black screen consumes only 59 watts and so a black version of google, such as would infact save energy! Sounds ok, apart from the eye strain doesn’t it? Well I’m not entirely sure I believe it though as surely this doesn’t apply to LCDs… not sure though, but the Wall Street Journal backs this up here.
Maybe its worth it.. but I think I’d rather not deal with the awkwardness of reading and save energy elsewhere…

Ban the teaching of proprietary software in schools

Recently an e-petition was given to the government on the use of open source software in schools (see: [here]). I signed it. I thought it was an interesting question and I feel that people leave schools underprepaired for using anything apart from commerical software. Anyway, the goverment has responded to this… it is an interesting response (see [here]) and is postivie to using open source software as they point out they have an agency which looks into such matters. Though it has some nice comments I do wonder and doubt if within a decade we will see the use of open source software in schools… they say they want to prepare people for work, well thats fine but maybe giving them a wider education would work. It would be good if they just had other tools installed and maybe just some basic training in the open source tools. I can see a situation were both M$ Office and Open Office is installed and the students can choose which they prefer and it is marked accordingly – also Open Office is free and students whose parents can only afford a basic machine at home can easily get open office at no cost!

The wrecking of British science

“If the world’s future lies in scientists’ hands, the answers are unlikely to come from the UK unless we reverse decades of political neglect” wrote Nobel laureate Sir Harry Kroto in a article for the Guardian newspaper last week. Shame its all true.
The UK is seeing a drain of people interested in science… and it has been noticeable over the years I have been at Uni.. more people now do “silly” courses than did when I started my undergrad.. what do they hope to get from this? Do they really think that a useless degree will help them in a future career.. a degree is a degree after all, it has to mean something doesn’t it? Well this is not true for all degrees. It is well worth doing a subject if you have a natural enjoyement / interest in it but is it worthwile doing if you think it will make you rich? Possibly, some degrees might but most probably won’t. They will put you in financial debt. Of course going to Uni is far from just about the academic education but it is not worthwhile going into it blindly.
Anyway, the article by Sir Harry Kroto (thanks to Lizzie’s mom for pointing it out…) is well worth a read and can be found at: []

Facts and myths blur the subject of climate change

Well are you concerned and confused about climate change? I know I am at times. I am a strong believe that human activity is doing damage to our climate but when you get lots of “scientists” arguing about it, it can be hard to figure out what is actually going on! Well NewScientist are attempting to make this info easier to take in… well if you are interested, read [this].