A detailed study of the motions of different stellar populations in Andromeda galaxy by UC Santa Cruz scientists using W. M. Keck Observatory data has found striking differences from our own Milky Way, suggesting a more violent history of mergers with smaller galaxies in Andromeda’s recent past. The findings are being presented on Thursday, January 8, at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.
The structure and internal motions of the stellar disk of a spiral galaxy hold important keys to understanding the galaxy’s formation history. The Andromeda galaxy, also called M31, is the closest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way and the largest in the local group of galaxies.
“In the Andromeda galaxy we have the unique combination of a global yet detailed view of a galaxy similar to our own. We have lots of detail in our own Milky Way, but not the global, external perspective,” said Puragra Guhathakurta, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The new study, led by UC Santa Cruz graduate student Claire Dorman and Guhathakurta, combined data from two large surveys of stars in Andromeda conducted at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii as well as data from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Comets are big. While the nucleus is quite small, we do not see the nucleus even with the enormous power of a 10 meter telescope. It is hidden in the coma and quite dark, the average nucleus is a shade of dark gray equivalent to charcoal.
The coma and tail are very extended, much larger than the field of view of the telescope, thus the entire frame is inside the coma. The photo of Hartley 2 Greg and I took was no exception.. The image is notable for its complete lack of any interesting structure. There are no jets, shells or other inner coma detail visible. The tail is simply a general brightening to the southwest (lower right in this image).
Small telescopes, in the hands of amateurs, are going to produce the prettiest images of comets. With fields of view measured in degrees, not arcminutes, the comet is going to be seen in all its glory.
I am waiting for the Moon to leave the evening sky before shooting the comet again. In the meantime I am processing more of the material obtained earlier in the month. In this case a photo of Comet 103P/Hartley 2 taken October 6th with Keck 2 and DEIMOS. The image marks the first time I have attempted to take and process an image with a 10m telescope. Just a wee bit larger than the 76mm refractor I usually use to take astrophotos!
The image is notable for its complete lack of any interesting structure. There are no jets, shells or other inner coma detail visible. The tail is simply a general brightening to the southwest (lower right in this image).
The comet is moving very quickly across the sky, even more so with the high magnification lent by a large telescope. Even short exposures turn the stars into long streaks. In this case multicolor streaks as the camera cycles through the filters needed for a color image.