Thursday 25 September 2014

Galaxy NGC 1566 - a hidden treasure deep in the southern sky

Hello folks,

This last Saturday ended up being a non-event sadly.  When we arrived we were greeted with a magnificent clear sky.  Some 13 people turned up to the Airfield in hope of some photons.  Then, no sooner had we set up out telescopes the wind changed to come from the east, and with that the clouds rolled in… so very disappointing.  We are hoping for better skies this coming Saturday.

I did manage a mid-week sojourn to the Airfield, seeing that the forecast was favourable.  The current forecast for the coming Saturday wasn’t too promising at the time, so I took the chance in case the worst came about (the forecast now is much more promising though!).

A recent supernova in the galaxy NGC 1566 made me curious about it and Seyfert type galaxies.  I ended up getting one of the most spectacular surprises I’ve encountered for some time!  It also brought to mind something I had read about exit pupil when observing galaxies.

What a magnificent, beautiful galaxy NGC 1566 is!  Low magnification does not do justice to it.  It really requires some grunt to see the wealth of details it contains.  Seeing this night was very stable, so I was able to take things to 200X in my 17.5” Karee dob.  Low magnification showed nothing more than a small bright oval.  Increasing the magnification and a gorgeous pair of arms became starkly evident.  A bright stellar like core too.  The increased contrast offered by the increase magnification also  showed a gossamer faint extension beyond that of the arms only visible with averted vision.

The ultimate treasure 1566 held was still to be surrendered.  Carefully studying the arm structure for while sketching, I noticed that one of the arms has a ‘string of pearls’ along its leading edge of strong star forming regions.  The other arm has similar regions, but not as many nor as bright.  This string of star formation regions was most unexpected, and absolutely exquisite to view.

In so far as the supernova is concerned, while it was still visible, it was not bright enough for me to distinguish it from the bright core and a bright foreground star that it sat between.  The separation between the core and this foreground star was just too tight.

If you have the opportunity to view this little galaxy, please do.  While small, it is bright and takes high magnification very well to reveal a large amount of detail.  If it were not for that this galaxy sits in the same constellation as the Large Magellanic Cloud it would most likely be much more well known.

Object:  galaxy NGC 1566
Telescope:  17.5” Karee push-pull dob
Gear:  10mm Pentax XW, 200X
Location:  Katoomba Airfield, NSW, Australia
Date:  23rd September, 2014

Media:  Soft pastel and charcoal on A4 size black paper.

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