Tonight's Sky
Sun
Sun
Moon
Moon
Mercury
Mercury
Venus
Venus
Mars
Mars
Jupiter
Jupiter
Saturn
Saturn

Tonight's Sky — Change location

OR

Searching...

Tonight's Sky — Select location

Tonight's Sky — Enter coordinates

° '
° '

Astro Pro-Am: Professional and amateur astronomers join forces

New images of a quartet of galaxies combine the efforts of Chandra, Spitzer, and two amateur astrophotographers.
RELATED TOPICS: GALAXIES | MILKY WAY
This quartet of galaxies comes from a collaboration of professional and amateur astronomers
This quartet of galaxies comes from a collaboration of professional and amateur astronomers that combines optical data from amateur telescopes with data from the archives of NASA missions. Starting in the upper left and moving clockwise, the galaxies are M101 (Pinwheel Galaxy), M81, Centaurus A, and M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy). In these images, X-rays from Chandra are in purple, infrared data from Spitzer are red, and the optical data are in red, green, and blue. The two astrophotographers who donated their images for these four images — Detlef Hartmann and Rolf Olsen — used their personal telescopes of 17.5 inches and 10 inches in diameter, respectively.
X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical (M101, M81, M51): Detlef Hartmann; Optical (Centaurus A): Rolf Olsen; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time. These amateur astronomers devote hours exploring the cosmos through a variety of telescopes that they acquire, maintain, and improve on their own. Some of these amateur astronomers specialize in capturing what is seen through their telescopes in images and are astrophotographers.

What happens when the work of amateur astronomers and astrophotographers is combined with the data from some of the world's most sophisticated space telescopes? Collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers reveal the possibilities and are intended to raise interest and awareness among the community of the wealth of data publicly available in NASA's various mission archives. This effort is particularly appropriate for this month because April marks Global Astronomy Month, the world's largest global celebration of astronomy.

The images in this quartet of galaxies represent a sample of composites created with X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and optical data collected by an amateur astronomer. In these images, the X-rays from Chandra are shown in purple, infrared emission from Spitzer is red, and the optical data are in red, green, and blue. The two astrophotographers who donated their images for these four images — Detlef Hartmann and Rolf Olsen — used their personal telescopes of 17.5 inches and 10 inches in diameter, respectively.

Starting in the upper left and moving clockwise, the galaxies are M101, M81, Centaurus A, and the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). M101 is a spiral galaxy like our Milky Way but about 70 percent bigger. It is located about 21 million light-years from Earth. M81 is a spiral galaxy about 12 million light-years away that is both relatively large in the sky and bright, making it a frequent target for both amateur and professional astronomers. Centaurus A is the fifth-brightest galaxy in the sky — making it an ideal target for amateur astronomers — and is famous for the dust lane across its middle and a giant jet blasting away from the supermassive black hole at its center. Finally, M51 is another spiral galaxy, about 30 million light-years away, that is in the process of merging with a smaller galaxy seen to its upper left.

For many amateur astronomers and astrophotographers, a main goal of their efforts is to observe and share the wonders of the universe. However, the long exposures of these objects could help reveal phenomena that may otherwise be missed in the relatively short snapshots taken by major telescopes, which are tightly scheduled and often oversubscribed by professional astronomers. Therefore, projects like this Astro Pro-Am collaboration might prove useful not only for producing spectacular images, but also contributing to the knowledge of what is happening in each of these cosmic vistas.
0

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Read and share your comments on this article
Comment on this article
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of Astronomy.com are allowed to comment on this article. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
0 comments
ADVERTISEMENT

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Receive news, sky-event information, observing tips, and more from Astronomy's weekly email newsletter.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
BoxProductcovernov

Click here to receive a FREE e-Guide exclusively from Astronomy magazine.

Find us on Facebook

Loading...