Any keen Astronomer or Astrophotographer born before the early 90s will remember seeing the iconic image of the Pillars of Creation taken by Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope in April 1995. These elephant trunks of interstellar gas reside in the Eagle Nebula (M16), specifically the Serpens (the serpant) constellation, some 6,500–7,000 light years from Earth. Dubbed the Pillars of Creation, because the gas and dust are in the process of creating new stars, while also being eroded by the light from nearby stars that have recently formed. The image is easily among the top ten images taken by Hubble, and was revisited in 2014 to create an even more detailed high definition image of these incredible structures which can be seen here The Pillars of Creation | NASA. Whilst my telescope is no where near as powerful as Hubble, and with the Earths atmosphere and weather to contend with, I set out this month to capture this region of space as it has been on my ‘bucket list’ of objects to capture since I started astrophotography last year. Over a few nights at the end of July, as astronomical darkness returned to our skies for just an hour or so each night, I set about collecting data on the Eagle Nebula which is relatively low in the night sky. The resulting image shows the Pillars of Creation nestled in the heart of the Eagle Nebula. The image was taken using a Skywatcher 200 PDS Newtonian Reflector Telescope and dedicated Cooled Astro Camera. I also used a Tri-band narrowband filter to reveal the fainter nebulosity within the image. At around 3 hours of total capture time, I’m ecstatic to have captured this amazing region of space from my very own garden in Dorset to add to my own collection!
The sky at night this month – August 2021 (443 words)
August is always a great month for Astronomy, and we have some fantastic events coming up! Kicking off with the Perseid meteor shower peaking on the 12th August, one of the most reliable displays of shooting stars to enjoy. In addition, the neighboring giants of our solar system Saturn and Jupiter are at their closest and brightest to Earth, making it a great time to grab that telescope and start exploring!
As this months image shows, the Serpens constellation is easily viewable this month and home to the Eagle Nebula (M16) discovered by Jean-Philippe Loys de Cheseaux in 1745. Through binoculars, you’ll be able to identify the bright infant stars developing in this star forming region, but a telescope will help to reveal the nebulosity within this amazing Nebula.
Saturn reaches its nearest point to Earth on the 2nd August at a mere 830.8 million miles, but can be easily observed throughout the month. A small telescope can reveal the famous rings as well as the brightest moons out the its 82 strong collection. Look to the middle of Capricornus in the southeast to find and explore this amazing world.
On the 10th August at around 8:45 pm, the crescent Moon will be form a line with Venus, Mars, Regulas and Mercury. Look to the West low on the horizon.
On the 11th August, a beautiful sight to behold is the crescent Moon teaming up the evening star, Venus as you look to the West.
During the second week of August, the Earth runs into a stream of debris left in the wake of comet Swift Turtle. The specks of cosmic dust smash into our atmosphere at a speeds of 130,000 mph which burn up causing the bright display. The meteors appear to diverge from the same part of the sky, lying in the constellation Perseus. Stay up until after midnight on the 12th for a free fireworks display! The Moon will also be setting before 10:30pm, ensuring a great show.
On the 20th August, Jupiter is at its nearest this year and opposite the Sun. Look towards Aquarius in the southeast. At distance of 372.8 million miles, with a pair of binocular held steady, you will be able to see Jupiter’s 4 biggest moons. Switch to a telescope and you’ll be able to see the cloud patterns on this blazing Gas Giant.
On the 21st August, a full Moon will team up with Jupiter, the second brightest planet.
On the 28th August, the Moon resides to the right of the Pleiades, with the Moon passing below them on the 29th, above the Hyades and Aldebaran transiting to the left on August 30th.
By: Rob Nolan RPN Photography