The heart and soul of the sky

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The BV’s night sky photographer and columnist Rob Nolan makes a welcome return – and introduces the Soul Nebula from within Cassiopeia

Folks, I’m back, and I apologise for the few months absence! Life events got in the way, as they invariably do. However, the nights are drawing in, and that means it’s definitely time to get the cover off the scopes!
To celebrate my return, I thought I’d show a new part of the sky that I’ve not imaged until recently. I do have a habit of going back to old favourites, which is easy to do when you acquire new scopes or cameras (yes, that’s right, more money has been spent – whoops!) so you may see some familiar objects if you’re a long term reader, but I promise they’ll be bigger and better than before!
This month’s image (opposite) is a close up on the eastern part of the Soul Nebula (also known as Westerhout 5), an emission nebula located in the constellation Cassiopeia. It forms part of a famous pair known as the Heart and Soul with the neighbouring Heart Nebula (IC 1805). The Soul Nebula is sometimes also known as the Embryo Nebula or IC 1848, which is a designation used for the open star cluster within it.
The Soul Nebula is being carved out by the stellar winds from the stars embedded within it, a process that leaves behind large pillars of material pointing inwards. These pillars are very dense and have stars forming at their tips. Each pillar spans about ten light years.
This image was taken using my new Skywatcher Maksutov Newtonian telescope, the 190-MN DS-Pro, which is a hybrid imaging scope that provides better image quality than my previous 200PDS Newtonian, which I will miss dearly!
At around six and a half hours of data, you can clearly make out the features that give the nebula its unique name in the night sky.

The night sky, October 2022 – Rob’s guide for your stargazing this month:

There have been some great celestial events over the last few months during my absence, but there’s still time to catch some of them if you haven’t already. Most notably, on 26th September Jupiter reached opposition and was closer to Earth than it has been in the past 59 years. There really has never been a better time to grab your binoculars (or telescopes) and take a peek to spot the giant planet and its moons.
This month, we’ll be treated to meteor showers and a partial eclipse. It’s going to be a busy month! On the 8th of October, look out for the moon as it passes under Jupiter, shining very brightly in the sky at the moment due to its close proximity.
On 12th and 14th October, the waning moon will pass by the Pleiades, Aldebaran and Mars. In September there was an excellent conjunction of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn, which all lined up nicely in the sky.
I did manage to capture that while in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland on holiday – the skies are very dark up there!
On the nights of 21st and 22nd of October, our annual pass through the debris from Halley’s Comet creates a potentially great ‘shooting stars’ display in our night skies until around 3:30am, when the Moon will rise. If it’s a clear night, the meteor shower is definitely one to wrap up warm for and go and look at.
On 24th October, before dawn is a good time to go and look at Mercury as it lies under a crescent Moon. This is best observed through binoculars.
On 25th October during the day, we’ll experience a partial solar eclipse, in which around 15 per cent of the Sun will be covered.
Visible from the UK, Europe, North East Africa and the Middle East, the eclipse will start at around 10am, with the maximum coverage occurring around 10:57am and ending at 11:45am. Never look directly at the sun! Always use appropriate protection such as solar eclipse glasses or an appropriate solar filter with a telescope.
At the end of the month another meteor shower starts to become visible. The usually mediocre Taurids meteor shower, created by Encke’s Comet, this year has the potential to produce Hallowe’en fireballs in the skies, as we pass through a dense region of debris from the comet.
They’ll peak in November, so we’ll mention that in the next issue.
It’s nice to be back, folks!

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