In the far southern skies is the constellation Piscis Volans, the flying fish. Within Volans lies this galaxy NGC 2442. It is distorted from the more common spiral shape into a meathook appearance. The unusual shape is likely the result of a close encounter with another galaxy not in the field of view. The galaxy lies about 50 million light years away. Visible are darkened dust lanes, young blueish star clusters, and reddish star forming regions. More views are from Astronomy Picture of the Dayhere, here, and here.
I tried my hand at producing a color version of the Meathook galaxy using 3 greyscale images from the Hubble Telescope. The process is described in this previous post. The Hubble images provide rich detail.
Spiral galaxies are common in the universe. This example of the Pinwheel Galaxy M101 from the Hubble Telescope is found in Ursa Major, the Big Dipper.
About ⅔ of the spiral galaxies also have a feature in the center called a bar. This next example, also from Hubble, is known as NGC 1300. Some bars are very long and pronounced, as this one. Other galaxies have a bar that is quite short.
Notice in each galaxy the blue cast in the spiral arms. It comes from the glow of relatively young stars. Older stars tend to glow white, yellow, or orange. The vein-like structures are regions darkened by the absorption of dust.
Evening arrived with very clear sky and mild temperature. It was the last night of winter. The International Space Station was due to pass directly overhead from SW to NE. It would pass near the Moon, Mars, Taurus and Orion. The iPad was set with NightCap app to record for about 3 minutes. After recording the scene, I enjoyed some telescope time.
iPad with NightCap in ISS mode, 171.75 sec exposure
Much of the excitement has settled now that Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is safely on the surface of Mars after the 18 Feb 2021 landing. I gathered images and links to a collection of things I feel tell the story of this rover in a not too complicated way. The mission is very challenging. A primary goal is to find evidence that microbial life may have existed on the Martian surface in the past.
You might wonder where Perseverance landed and why is that place is important. Landing took place in Jezero Crater. The crater is about 49 km (30 mi) across. It is believed to have once been filled with water. This image shows a dried riverbed and delta of a water source that once flowed left-to-right and filled the crater. The colors are indicators of various types of mineral deposits and not actual colors. The rover landed in the lower right quadrant of this image just below the two side-by-side small craters on the flat plain and not far from the delta formation.
Ancient river delta into Jezero Crater | MRO | NASA
Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) was discovered on 27 June 2020. The acronym ATLAS stands for Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System, based on the Hawaiian islands. Two telescopes of the robotic early warning system are designed to detect smaller near-Earth objects a few weeks to days before they might impact Earth. Since 2017, the scopes survey one quarter of the observable sky four times each clear night. The system is NASA funded and operated by the University of Hawaii.
Orbits near the Earth of objects larger than 1 km are well-known. Most are well documented and predicted years in advance of their close approaches to Earth. Objects down to 140 meters in size are harder to see. It is estimated ⅓ of them have been found. None of those found so far are predicted to threaten Earth in the next century.
Smaller objects less than 140 meters are detected only when they are much closer to Earth. Late discovery means there is the greater potential for a locally catastrophic collision with little warning time if they are on a collision course. ATLAS looks for these smaller objects. Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) was discovered by this system.
The comet became a popular object for amateur astronomers to image. By November 2020 it was nearing the Orion constellation. This image on 6 Nov 2020 was by José J. Chambó at his web site Cometografia.es. I thought it would be interesting to image this comet several times as it passed through Orion.