Sunday, July 8, 2018

Dusty Mars and Dust is Everywhere!

What a difference a few days makes!

We had a cold front come through on Friday and it drove the Summertime temperatures down by about 15 degrees (F).

I brought the telescope out at 0100 this morning to let it get acclimated for a couple of hours before I started imaging Mars.

I had to go back into the house and put on my Winter coat.  It was chilly.

While waiting for the telescope to cool down, I pointed it at a few other of my favorite deep space objects (DSO) and used SharpCap's live stacking to capture some images.

These images have at least one thing in common:  Part of their beauty comes from the existence of dust.  Interstellar dust, of course, but dust, nonetheless.

The Iris Nebula

NGC 7023, also known as the Iris Nebula, is a reflection nebula located in the constellation of Cepheus. The nebula has a young star at its center and since it is young, there is plenty of local dust surrounding the star. The starlight hits the dust and is reflected which becomes the purpleish nebula that we see.

Iris Nebula.  Purple, like its namesake, the flower.
More, after the jump break

NGC 7331 

NGC 7331 is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Pegasus.

It's the brightest member of the NGC 7331 Group, which is a group of galaxies also known as the Deer Lick Group. This small collection of galaxies also contains four other members, NGC 7335, NGC 7336, NGC 7337 and NGC 7340.  These four other galaxies are comparatively tiny and are also referred to as the "fleas."

NGC 7335, NGC 7336, and NGC 7337 are visible in the image that I captured.  Sadly, I couldn't get NGC 7340 to fit in the field of view.

NGC 7331, with dust lanes visible.
The center of NGC 7331 is bright and well defined. There are hints of dark dust lanes and mottling beneath its nucleus.

The Dumbbell Nebula

M 27, a planetary nebula, is also known as the Dumbbell Nebula, and is also known as the Apple Core Nebula.

M 27 with knots of dust and gas.
M 27 has many, many, knots of gas and dust. Gas and knots appear to be an evolutionary feature of planetary nebula.

Shortly after Mars crossed the meridian, with my telescope properly acclimated to the cooler outdoor temperature, I started capturing gigabytes of Mars video data.

Mars, Dusty Mars

The planet encircling dust storm still rages, but with lucky imaging techniques and tools, I was able to get this image:

Southern polar ice cap, I see you!
Comparing this image to the model presented by the Virtual Planets Atlas, there are a number of features visible through the dust.  I've labeled them below.

Dusty Mars with features peeking through . . .
Next week?  Summer returns with a vengeance, I'm sure.

And more dusty Mars.  


  1. A winter coat in the middle of summer, haha. I can totally see the apple core in your Apple Core Nebula image. It's pretty amazing how many features you can still see through the dust storm on Mars. Thanks for sharing your images!

    1. I'm still thinking that my next ski trip needs to be on the southern polar cap. Maybe I can get Marvin the Martian to act as guide.


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