A big star exploded as a supernova in the lovely face-on spiral M101 in Ursa Major this month. At a distance of 20 million light years, this is the closest supernova in five years and the first in this galaxy since 2011. The new supernova isn’t close enough to see with the unaided eye, alas, but it lies within reach of a 5” or larger telescope for visual observers (as of the end of May 2023) and it offers an easy target for imagers. [Read more…] about An Exploding Star in Messier 101Share This:
Recent Astronomy Articles at Cosmic Pursuits
The handle of the Dipper offers a convenient guide two stately face-on spiral galaxies that are visible, at least to some degree, in a small telescope. In dark skies, these two nearby galaxies display clear hints of a striking and ubiquitous pinwheel shape that reveals itself in the clouds of a hurricane or the seed arrangement in a sunflower, a reminder that many of nature’s patterns appear at a wide range of scales [Read more…] about Two Fine Spiral Galaxies Near the Dipper’s HandleShare This:
Sometime in 1955, Mr. David Coffeen of New Orleans, Louisiana came up with $75. In today’s currency, that’s about $700, a respectable sum. And what did Mr. Coffeen do with his hard-earned savings?
He purchased a telescope.
Which telescope? A Unitron altazimuth refractor with an aperture of just 40mm, less than that of most finder scopes today. It came with three eyepieces, a star diagonal, and a wooden storage case, because it was an honest astronomical instrument.
Mr. Coffeen used his telescope from atop his modest trailer home. There was a lot to see with that 40mm scope: loads of lunar detail, the rings of Saturn, the Galilean moons of Jupiter and a couple of belts, hundreds of double stars, many of the Messier objects, and a lot more [Read more…] about An Ode to Small TelescopesShare This:
Somehow in my younger days, in my haste to get out into the ‘real world’, I ended up spending five years in graduate school. Part of that time, in the summers, I studied and conducted research at the University of Chicago where I helped use laser systems to measure properties of molecules found in planetary atmospheres and the interstellar medium.
Chicago is one of the world’s great universities. Nearly 100 of its students and professors have won Nobel Prizes. But it’s not a particularly big place, so a chance sighting of a famous professor is not unusual. Still, I stopped in my tracks during my first week on campus when, on the way back to the lab from lunch, I passed on the sidewalk an older, slight man of Indian descent with thinning grey hair and alert eyes wearing a crisp white shirt and tie. I instantly recognized him as Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, more commonly known as Chandra, the discoverer of the Chandrasekhar Limit, winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics, and one of the most revered astrophysicists in the world [Read more…] about Chandra’s LimitShare This:
In the months from late November through early March, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, the famous Pleiades star cluster grabs the attention of experienced and untutored stargazers alike. The little dipper-shaped cluster, which is about the width of your little finger held at arm’s length, presents a spectacular sight in binoculars or small telescope where it transforms from a tiny cluster of half a dozen members to an arresting array of couple of hundred of blue-white stars. The cluster itself is a snap to observe, but at its heart lies a far more challenging object, an ethereal reflection nebula created by starlight reflected by fine grains of stardust in an interstellar cloud that the cluster is passing through. [Read more…] about The Merope NebulaShare This: