Steve Leshin



Verde Valley



Home Club Calendar Contents Astronomy News Observing Tools Web Links Club News Articles Astrophotography Site Search Feedback Picture Credits Mission & Bylaws




Images from club member Steve Leshin. As of August 1st, 2013, Steve has had 17 of his images posted on NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day. (APOD) Images courtesy of Steve Leshin.


The Elephant's Trunk Nebula in Cepheus
Image Credit & Copyright:
Stephen Leshin

Explanation: Like an illustration in a galactic Just So Story, the Elephant's Trunk Nebula winds through the emission nebula and young star cluster complex IC 1396, in the high and far off constellation of Cepheus. Also known as vdB 142, the cosmic elephant's trunk is over 20 light-years long. This colorful close-up view includes image data from a narrow band filter that transmits the light from ionized hydrogen atoms in the region. The resulting composite highlights the bright swept-back ridges that outline pockets of cool interstellar dust and gas. Such embedded, dark, tendril-shaped clouds contain the raw material for star formation and hide protostars within. Nearly 3,000 light-years distant, the relatively faint IC 1396 complex covers a large region on the sky, spanning over 5 degrees. This dramatic scene spans a 1 degree wide field, about the size of 2 Full Moons.

Astronomical pictures are not just point and shoot. Special, very sensitive CCD cameras are used to create a photo that is monochrome or black and white. The color is created by using different filters on the camera and assigning each picture to a color channel using software.

The pictures to the left and below show the different filters to create the picture above.

The picture at left is the Luminance Channel of the picture. Exposure time:5.3 hours

The picture at left is the H-Alpha Channel of the picture. Exposure time:7 hours
The picture at left is the Red, Green and Blue color channels combined.

Exposure time: 19.5 hours

Adding the Luminance Channel to the RGB image brings the exposure up to 23.8 hours
Combing all the images from the different filter channels gives a LHaRGB image for a total of 31.8 hours

Click the picture to enlarge

APOD: 2013 October 20 Three Galaxies in Draco

Explanation: This intriguing trio of galaxies is sometimes called the Draco Group, located in the northern constellation of (you guessed it) Draco. From left to right are edge-on spiral NGC 5981, elliptical galaxy NGC 5982, and face-on spiral NGC 5985 -- all within this single telescopic field of view spanning a little more than half the width of the full moon. While the group is far too small to be a galaxy cluster and has not been catalogued as a compact group, these galaxies all do lie roughly 100 million light-years from planet Earth. On close examination with spectrographs, the bright core of the striking face-on spiral NGC 5985 shows prominent emission in specific wavelengths of light, prompting astronomers to classify it as a Seyfert, a type of active galaxy. Not as well known as other tight groupings of galaxies, the contrast in visual appearance makes this triplet an attractive subject for astrophotographers. This impressively deep exposure hints at faint, sharp-edged shells surrounding elliptical NGC 5982, evidence of past galactic mergers. It also reveals many even more distant background galaxies.

APOD: 2013 July 18 - Hidden Galaxy IC 342

Explanation: Similar in size to large, bright spiral galaxies in our neighborhood, IC 342 is a mere 10 million light-years distant in the long-necked, northern constellation Camelopardalis. A sprawling island universe, IC 342 would otherwise be a prominent galaxy in our night sky, but it is hidden from clear view and only glimpsed through the veil of stars, gas and dust clouds along the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy. Even though IC 342's light is dimmed by intervening cosmic clouds, this deep telescopic image traces the galaxy's obscuring dust, blue star clusters, and glowing pink star forming regions along spiral arms that wind far from the galaxy's core. IC 342 may have undergone a recent burst of star formation activity and is close enough to have gravitationally influenced the evolution of the local group of galaxies and the Milky Way.

APOD: 2013 February 8 - NGC 6822: Barnard's Galaxy

Explanation: Grand spiral galaxies often seem to get all the glory, flaunting their young, bright, blue star clusters in beautiful, symmetric spiral arms. But small galaxies form stars too, like nearby NGC 6822, also known as Barnard's Galaxy. Beyond the rich starfields in the constellation Sagittarius, NGC 6822 is a mere 1.5 million light-years away, a member of our Local Group of galaxies. About 7,000 light-years across, the dwarf irregular galaxy is seen to be filled with young blue stars and mottled with the telltale pinkish hydrogen glow of star forming regions in the deep color composite image. Contributing to the science of LITTLE THINGS, this portrait of a small galaxy was made as part of the Lowell Amateur Research Initiative (LARI), welcoming collaborations with amateur astronomers.

APOD: 2012 October 31 - VdB 152: A Ghost in Cepheus

Explanation: Described as a "dusty curtain" or "ghostly apparition", mysterious reflection nebula VdB 152 really is very faint. Far from your neighborhood on this Halloween Night, the cosmic phantom is nearly 1,400 light-years away. Also catalogued as Ced 201, it lies along the northern Milky Way in the royal constellation Cepheus. Near the edge of a large molecular cloud, pockets of interstellar dust in the region block light from background stars or scatter light from the embedded bright star giving parts of the nebula a characteristic blue color. Ultraviolet light from the star is also thought to cause a dim reddish luminescence in the nebular dust. Though stars do form in molecular clouds, this star seems to have only accidentally wandered into the area, as its measured velocity through space is very different from the cloud's velocity. This deep telescopic image of the region spans about 7 light-years.

APOD: 2012 June 22 - IC 2574: Coddington's Nebula

Explanation: Grand spiral galaxies often seem to get all the glory, flaunting their young, bright, blue star clusters in beautiful, symmetric spiral arms. But small, irregular galaxies form stars too. In fact dwarf galaxy IC 2574 shows clear evidence of intense star forming activity in its telltale pinkish regions of glowing hydrogen gas. Just as in spiral galaxies, the turbulent star-forming regions in IC 2574 are churned by stellar winds and supernova explosions spewing material into the galaxy's interstellar medium and triggering further star formation. A mere 12 million light-years distant, IC 2574 is part of the M81 group of galaxies, seen toward the northern constellation Ursa Major. Also known as Coddington's Nebula, the lovely island universe is about 50,000 light-years across, discovered by American astronomer Edwin Coddington in 1898.

APOD: 2012 February 16 - NGC 5965 and NGC 5963 in Draco

Explanation: These two spiral galaxies make a photogenic pair, found within the boundaries of the northern constellation Draco. Contrasting in color and orientation, NGC 5965 is nearly edge-on to our line of sight and dominated by yellow hues, while bluish NGC 5963 is closer to face-on. Of course, even in this well-framed cosmic snapshot the scene is invaded by other galaxies, including small elliptical NGC 5969 at the lower left. Brighter, spiky stars in our own Milky Way are scattered through the foreground. Though they seem to be close and of similar size, galaxies NGC 5965 and NGC 5963 are far apart and unrelated, by chance appearing close on the sky. NGC 5965 is about 150 million light-years distant and over 200,000 light-years across. Much smaller, NGC 5963 is a mere 40 million light-years away and so is not associated with the edge-on spiral. Difficult to follow, NGC 5963's extraordinarily faint blue spiral arms mark it as a low surface brightness galaxy.

APOD: 2011 November 4 - Edge on NGC 3628

Explanation: Sharp telescopic views of magnificent edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 3628 show a puffy galactic disk divided by dark dust lanes. The tantalizing scene puts many astronomers in mind of its popular moniker, The Hamburger Galaxy. About 100,000 light-years across and 35 million light-years away in the constellation Leo, NGC 3628 shares its neighborhood in the local Universe with two other large spirals, a grouping otherwise known as the Leo Triplet. Gravitational interactions with its cosmic neighbors are likely responsible for the extended flare and warp of this spiral's disk, populated by the galaxy's young blue star clusters and tell tale pinkish star forming regions. Also a result of past close encounters, a faint tidal tail of material is just visible extending upward and left in this deep galaxy portrait.

APOD: 2011 August 29 - Hickson 44 in Leo

Explanation: Scanning the skies for galaxies, Canadian astronomer Paul Hickson and colleagues identified some 100 compact groups of galaxies, now appropriately called Hickson Compact Groups. The four prominent galaxies seen in this intriguing telescopic skyscape are one such group, Hickson 44, about 100 million light-years distant toward the constellation Leo. The two spiral galaxies in the center of the image are edge-on NGC 3190 with its distinctive, warped dust lanes, and S-shaped NGC 3187. Along with the bright elliptical, NGC 3193 at the right, they are also known as Arp 316. The spiral in the upper left corner is NGC 3185, the 4th member of the Hickson group. Like other galaxies in Hickson groups, these show signs of distortion and enhanced star formation, evidence of a gravitational tug of war that will eventually result in galaxy mergers on a cosmic timescale. The merger process is now understood to be a normal part of the evolution of galaxies, including our own Milky Way. For scale, NGC 3190 is about 75,000 light-years across at the estimated distance of Hickson 44

APOD: 2011 July 7 - Arp 78: Peculiar Galaxy in Aries

Explanation: Peculiar spiral galaxy Arp 78 is found within the boundaries of the head strong constellation Aries, some 100 million light-years beyond the stars and nebulae of our Milky Way galaxy. Also known as NGC 772, the island universe is over 100 thousand light-years across and sports a single prominent outer spiral arm in this detailed cosmic portrait. Its brightest companion galaxy, compact NGC 770, is toward the upper right of the larger spiral. NGC 770's fuzzy, elliptical appearance contrasts nicely with a spiky foreground Milky Way star in matching yellowish hues. Tracking along sweeping dust lanes and lined with young blue star clusters, Arp 78's large spiral arm is likely due to gravitational tidal interactions. Faint streams of material seem to connect Arp 78 with its nearby companion galaxies.

APOD: 2011 February 26 - Shell Galaxies in Pisces

Explanation: This colorful cosmic skyscape features a peculiar system of galaxies cataloged as Arp 227 some 100 million light-years distant. Swimming within the boundaries of the constellation Pisces, Arp 227 consists of the two galaxies prominent on the left; the curious shell galaxy NGC 474 and its blue, spiral-armed neighbor NGC 470. The faint, wide arcs or shells of NGC 474 could have been formed by a gravitational encounter with neighbor NGC 470. Alternately the shells could be caused by a merger with a smaller galaxy producing an effect analogous to ripples across the surface of a pond. Remarkably, the large galaxy on the right hand side of the deep image, NGC 467, appears to be surrounded by faint shells too, evidence of another interacting galaxy system. Intriguing background galaxies are scattered around the field that also includes spiky foreground stars. Of course, those stars lie well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. The field of view spans 25 arc minutes or about 1/2 degree on the sky.

APOD: 2011 January 22 - Polar Ring Galaxy NGC 660

Explanation: NGC 660 lies near the center of this intriguing skyscape, swimming in the boundaries of the constellation Pisces. Over 20 million light-years away, its peculiar appearance marks it as a polar ring galaxy. A rare galaxy type, polar ring galaxies have a substantial population of stars, gas, and dust orbiting in rings nearly perpendicular to the plane of the galactic disk. The bizarre configuration could have been caused by the chance capture of material from a passing galaxy by the disk galaxy, with the captured debris strung out in a rotating ring. The polar ring component can be used to explore the shape of the galaxy's otherwise unseen dark matter halo by calculating the dark matter's gravitational influence on the rotation of the ring and disk. Broader than the disk, NGC 660's ring spans about 40,000 light-years.

APOD: 2010 October 30 - Ghost of the Cepheus Flare

Explanation: Spooky shapes seem to haunt this starry expanse, drifting through the night in the royal constellation Cepheus. Of course, the shapes are cosmic dust clouds faintly visible in dimly reflected starlight. Far from your own neighborhood on planet Earth, they lurk at the edge of the Cepheus Flare molecular cloud complex some 1,200 light-years away. Over 2 light-years across the ghostly nebula known as vdB 141 or Sh2-136 is near the center of the field. The core of the dark cloud on the right is collapsing and is likely a binary star system in the early stages of formation.

APOD: 2010 August 13 - Arp 286: Trio in Virgo

Explanation: A remarkable telescopic composition in yellow and blue, this scene features a trio of interacting galaxies almost 90 million light-years away, toward the constellation Virgo. On the left, two, spiky, foreground Milky Way stars echo the trio galaxy hues, a reminder that stars in our own galaxy are like those in the distant island universes. Predominately yellow, with sweeping spiral arms and dust lanes, NGC 5566 is enormous, about 150,000 light-years across. Just below it lies small, blue NGC 5569. Near center, the third galaxy, NGC 5560, is multicolored and apparently stretched and distorted by its interaction with NGC 5566. The galaxy trio is also included in Halton Arp's 1966 Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 286. Of course, such cosmic interactions are now appreciated as a common part of the evolution of galaxies.

APOD: 2010 April 29 - Virgo Cluster Galaxy NGC 4731

Explanation: Barred spiral galaxy NGC 4731 lies some 65 million light-years away. The lovely island universe resides in the large Virgo cluster of galaxies. Colors in this well-composed, cosmic portrait, highlight plentiful, young, bluish star clusters along the galaxy's sweeping spiral arms. Its broad arms are distorted by gravitational interaction with a fellow Virgo cluster member, giant elliptical galaxy NGC 4697. NGC 4697 is beyond this frame above and to the left, but a smaller irregular galaxy NGC 4731A can be seen near the bottom in impressive detail with its own young blue star clusters. Of course, the individual, colorful, spiky stars in the scene are much closer, within our own Milky Way galaxy. NGC 4731 itself is well over 100,000 light-years across.

APOD: 2009 April 18 - NGC 1333 Stardust

Explanation: NGC 1333 is seen in visible light as a reflection nebula, dominated by bluish hues characteristic of starlight reflected by dust. A mere 1,000 light-years distant toward the heroic constellation Perseus, it lies at the edge of a large, star-forming molecular cloud. This striking close-up view spans about 4 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 1333. It shows details of the dusty region along with hints of contrasting emission in red jets and glowing gas from recently formed stars. In fact, NGC 1333 contains hundreds of stars less than a million years old, most still hidden from optical telescopes by the pervasive stardust. The chaotic environment may be similar to one in which our own Sun formed over 4.5 billion years ago.

APOD: 2006 August 15 - IC 410 and NGC 1893

Explanation: A faint, dusty rose of the northern sky, emission nebula IC 410 lies about 12,000 light-years away in the constellation Auriga. The cloud of glowing hydrogen gas is over 100 light-years across, sculpted by stellar winds and radiation from embedded open star cluster NGC 1893. Formed in the interstellar cloud a mere 4 million years ago, bright cluster stars are seen just below the prominent dark dust cloud near picture center. Notable near the 7 o'clock position in this wide, detailed view are two relatively dense streamers of material trailing away from the nebula's central regions. Potentially sites of ongoing star formation, these cosmic tadpole shapes are about 10 light-years long.

The Pinwheel Galaxy

Also known as the Triangulum Galaxy & Messier 33 (M33) is a member of the Local Group of galaxies including the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. It is a close 3 million light years away in the constellation Triangulum. One theory suggests that it may be moving towards the Milky Way Galaxy and may precede the arrival of the Andromeda Galaxy. This is what it might look like as it closes in on the Milky Way in several billion years. M33 is one of the handful of galaxies that may be seen without aid to the eye from a dark site.

Pac Man Nebula

Also known as the NGC 281, this nebula is an H II Region in the constellation Cassiopeia. Discovered in 1883 by E. E. Barnard, the name Pac Man was obviously tagged to the object in the 1980's after the popular video game. The star cluster IC 1590 makes up the eye of the Pac Man. Several Bok Globules can also be seen in the nebula. These are the dark bubble shaped  and column shaped clouds of dust.

ARP 104 Galaxies

Entry number 104 in the Halton Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies is located in the constellation of Ursa Major, also known as the Big Dipper. A mere distance of 22,000 light years separates the two galaxies. A bridge of stellar material connects the two. These galaxies are also know as NGC 5216 and NGC 5218. William Herschel first discovered the galaxies in 1790 and they were studied by Edwin Hubble in 1926. Sometimes called Keenan's System, Philip Keenan published a paper in 1935 about the bridge connecting the galaxies.