Now it’s easy to think at first glance that this isn’t a particularly great image, but bear with me.
The reason this is such an interesting photo is because a supernova (designated SN 2022 HRS) in this little region of space near M60 (NGC 4649) – which is an elliptical galaxy approximately 57 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo – suddenly became visible to us just a couple of weeks ago, around the 16th April.
It is also worth bearing in mind that a single light year is around six trillion miles, so this galaxy is possibly the furthest object I’ve intended to capture to date!
There are many other ‘faint fuzzies’ in this image, making up the Virgo supercluster which is a huge swarm of 2,000 galaxies in this region of space. The Supernova shown magnified in this image actually happened 63 million years ago. To put that into perspective, this star all the way across the universe exploded in the biggest explosions that we as humans know about – but it actually happened when the dinosaurs were still roaming the Earth. However, it only just became visible to us on a seemingly ordinary day a couple of weeks
More amazingly, we saw it, realised, and now astronomers all over the world just like me are imaging it themselves, just days after it became apparent to us. I find that truly incredible, and its why I love this hobby! This image was captured only nine days after the Supernova appeared, and was captured using my
bigger Sky-watcher Newtonian Reflector Telescope and Cooled Astro Camera.
The night sky, May 2022 – Rob’s guide for your stargazing this month:
We are in the midst of galaxy season now, and with the lighter evenings extending, long nights shooting are becoming scarce. The nights are still packed with celestial events though, if you’re prepared to get up early enough to see them!
Highlights include close conjunctions of some of our neighbouring planets, a total lunar eclipse, meteors from Halley’s Comet and a possible storm of shooting stars towards the end of the month!
So, grab those binoculars or your telescope and get ready to set those alarm clocks.
Also on display this month are the bright stars Vega and Arcturus; look towards Vega on a dark moonless night, and you may be able to make out a fuzzy patch. This is the Great Cluster M13 in Hercules. A closely knit globular cluster of around 1 million stars. That particular cluster may feature as next months image, if I can get a good shot of it!
What to look out for
On the 6th of May, we’ll be treated to a display of shooting stars from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Caused by tiny pieces of Halley’ Comets burning up in our atmosphere, you’ll need to look up in the early hours of the morning to catch the display.
On the 13th May between 1:55 and 2:45am, the Moon moves in front of Porrima, a large star in the
On the 16th May, there is the possibility of seeing a total lunar eclipse which should be visible from
America, and parts of Europe and Africa. Here in the UK, the partial phase starts at 3:27am, reaching totality at 4:29am.
Grab a pair of binoculars and look low towards the east to spot the crescent Moon sailing below
Jupiter, Mars and Venus, on the respective nights of the 25th, 26th and 27th May. Another celestial
event requiring an early dawn wake-up call! Before dawn on the 29th May, Mars passes below Jupiter, another one to observe with Binoculars.
The second potential meteor shower on offer this month is provided courtesy of the debris from
Comet Schwassam-Wachman-3, during the night of 31st May/1st June. This may produce a brief but intense storm of shooting stars, known as the Tau Herculid meteor shower, with the best views offered once again
before dawn. The comet itself is still in the process of breaking up, a process which began when the
comet first started to fracture in 1995.
by Rob Nolan – Find RPN Photography on Facebook here