Galaxies m81 m82 | Supernova 2014 j

This composite image is made from telescopes at two observatories. The background image is by Johannes Schedler from his equipment installed next to his house in southeast Austria. His gallery of images is beautiful. This background image shows two neighboring galaxies, m81 and m82, in Ursa Major. They are 12 million light years away and 150,000 lt yr apart. Schedler combined five 30 minute images in different wavelengths each recorded with his 16″ telescope.

The two foreground images were requested by me from the Rigel telescope at the Iowa Robotic Observatory in Arizona. They are each 60 sec exposures with no specific wavelength filters. These two images are scaled to match that of the larger background image. This composite shows the increase is detail that can be obtained with long duration exposures, careful selection of wavelengths, and high quality optics as was done by J. Schedler. Click to embig.

Click to embig.

The Rigel telescope at IRO is used primarily by introductory astronomy students and researchers at the University of Iowa. The curriculum and telescope are under the direction of Professor Robert Mutel at Iowa. In the middle and late 1990s, Dr. Mutel set up an astronomy work station in my physics classroom in West High School in Iowa City. This allowed students to conduct astronomy projects, such as Supernova searches, using an earlier university telescope at that time. The high school students could follow the same course materials as the college students. Since then, I have enjoyed a professional relationship with Dr. Mutel in other educational areas of astronomy. As such, he grants me a user account on the Rigel telescope in AZ. I am very fortunate.

Supernova 2014 j

There was excitement in the astronomy community January 21, 2014, because of the discovery of Supernova 2014jIt was located in galaxy m82, the galaxy shown in the images above. The Hubble Space Telescope imaged m82 on January 31, just days after discovery as seen in this beautiful and detailed image. The images below are not positioned the same because of the different orientations of the telescopes used to obtain them.

Hubble Space Telescope – Click to embig

The top image in this post by Schedler does not contain evidence of the Supernova because it was taken in 2005. However, my less detailed image of 60 sec from the IRO was taken in early February of 2014. It should contain the Supernova. A zoomed-in close inspection reveals the Supernova clearly. Here it is highlighted by the yellow cross-hairs. It is not as good as Hubble’s. But, I am very pleased with it.

J. Ruebush – IRO



8 thoughts on “Galaxies m81 m82 | Supernova 2014 j

  1. You photos made me think of a question I’ve had for a while. If we were in space looking at these galaxies, would we see any color? The image of the super nova, for example. Would I actually see those colors if I looked at it?


    • Those are good questions. If you were out in space near enough to see galaxies as large extended objects, mostly you would see white and shades of light gray. Here is a good example. This example also shows the darker areas where dust is blocking the light.

      The colors we see in images are enhanced to bring out detail and show where certain types of light (infrared, ultraviolet, xray, etc) are originating. Our eyes would see less color than that. Some stars do appear to the eye as kind of reddish or bluish. Photographs can enhance those colors much more that the eyes see.

      Thanks for asking. I appreciate it.


    • Yes, they are still done. It used to be more time consuming and laborious to gather your images of galaxies, also gather archived images of the same ones, then do a blink comparison switching from one to the other repeatedly. Our students would select 30 to 50 galaxies to check that way. More is too time consuming and makes them give up the project.

      Today, that process is more automated. Images are made with the same exposure settings. Computers then subtract the archived and the current ones to look for a difference. It works for supernova searches and asteroids as well. They are moving and record locations different on the images even a few hours or minutes apart depending on how close and fast they are moving.

      Good question. Thanks.


  2. Interesting, Jim. I hadn’t thought much about it before this post but the development of digital cameras and photo processing has to have had a revolutionary effect on astronomy. Growing up in Kansas I recall being given a reading assignment about Clyde Tombaugh and how he endured freezing his butt off at night and breathing thin air on a mountain top in order to discover Pluto. Remote operation has to be removing a lot of the discomfort.

    How awesome it is to know that our sun is merely a dust speck of a spiral galaxy like this one!


    • And, about a fifth of those speck of stars appear to have planets around them.

      You’re right about Clyde and other astronomers from earlier days. It was hard and cold work. A lot of shirt-sleeve astronomy happens today. We can call that progress, I guess.


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