Get a weekly dose of deep-sky beauty

By Phil Plait | March 5, 2012 2:12 pm

My old friend Travis Rector is a professional astronomer at the University of Alaska. He’s also a gifted astrophotographer, and has made countless stunning images of astronomical objects over his career. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time at all you’ll have already seen many of his images, since a lot of news items involve objects he’s observed (see Related Posts below for more). And they’re all incredible! Like, say, this relatively random one I grabbed from his gallery, a ridiculously beautiful picture showing the interacting spiral galaxies NGC 5426 and NGC 5427:

See what I mean? [Click to galactinate.] I could’ve shown any of dozens of images like this, and they’re all amazing.

He’s decided to release a new image every Monday during 2012, putting it in his gallery with a description of what you’re seeing. Trust me, you absolutely want to keep track of what he’s up to. You can see the latest weekly image on his Facebook page or you can go straight to his gallery.

But I don’t recommend it unless you have plenty of time in your schedule. I won’t be responsible for people getting lost looking at his work.


Related posts:

- When beauty and science collide
- Another nearly perfect circle in space!
- AAS #15: Travisty of Astronomy
- New pic: SN2011fe in M101

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Travis Rector

Comments (19)

  1. Bryan

    Link to Travis’s gallery seems to be broken :(

  2. Chris

    Beautiful, but I think it’s a bit of a cheat since he is using Gemini South. If I had access to that telescope I could take pictures like that too ;-)

  3. Bryan (1): It works for me. I’m not sure what’s going on with your end. Sorry!

  4. I won’t be responsible for people getting lost looking at his work.

    But I will thankfully blame you anyway! :D

  5. Ken Coenen

    Great stuff. Thanks Travis, and you too Phil!

  6. Matt Stachoni

    I always wonder how fantastic it must be to live on a planet with all that awe going on in the night sky.

  7. Messier Tidy Upper

    Superluminous – beyond merely brilliant – image there. Love it – cheers! :-D

  8. @1. Bryan said : “Link to Travis’s gallery seems to be broken.”

    That link – and all the others above are working for me.

    @6. Matt Stachoni :

    I always wonder how fantastic it must be to live on a planet with all that awe going on in the night sky.

    Then just wait about 5 billion years or so for M31 – the Andromeda galaxy – to fill our night time skies as it encounters and merges with our Milky Way. Of course by then our Sun as a Red Giant star willbe filling our daytime skies and baking our planet to a crisp, but, hey, you can’t have everything I guess! ;-)

    You’re right though, it would indeed be a spectacular sight.

    @ 2. Chris :

    Beautiful, but I think it’s a bit of a cheat since he is using Gemini South. If I had access to that telescope I could take pictures like that too.

    Could you though? I think some training and assistence from the operators there may be required for that purpose as well! ;-)

    PS. Just made this my new monitor wallpaper background. Thanks. :-)

    PPS. Love the background galaxies here too – line of sight galaxy cluster I take it?

  9. Tensor

    @8 Messier Tidy Upper. I especially like the galactic collision at the top of the image, above the center of NGC5426.

  10. Wzrd1

    The object is ARP 271. It’s listed on Wiki, but for some reason, I cannot post it without the post being bitbucketed.
    So, as my original three attempts were trashed, which were more verbose and fact filled, I give up.

  11. Chip

    Thanks for posting this wonderful image. Mr. Rector’s photographs are so richly detailed and breathtaking. I’ve been observing particularly dark skies on a beach along the Gulf of Mexico. Then I come in and check out these fantastic images too! Images full of awe.

  12. Paul A.

    I would love to see a simulation of what the night sky looks like if the earth were in one of those galaxies looking towards the other. I wonder how bright it would be.

  13. Mephane

    Phil, please have a look at this:

    http://aftar.uaa.alaska.edu/gallery/details.cfm?img=194&type=#

    I think this is a planetary nebula, though the description seems incomplete. But just see what it looks like, this one is amazing!

  14. ceramicfundamentalist

    “I would love to see a simulation of what the night sky looks like if the earth were in one of those galaxies looking towards the other. I wonder how bright it would be.”

    I’ve often thought it wouldn’t be that great a view – we are smack dab in the middle of the milky way, remember, and unless it’s perfectly dark the milky way is virtually invisible to the naked eye. granted, much of the milky way is obscured by dust, but then again so would be much of the light from a neighbouring galaxy.

  15. @ ^ Ceramicfundamentalist : Ah, but the approaching neighbouring galaxy would almost certainly be seen from a very different angle, ie. NOT along the galactic plane, and thus far less obscured by the dust and gas lanes in our own Milky Way Galaxy. That bit of different perspective could make a splendid difference to our night skies! ;-)

    We’d also see the ever-closing Andromeda galaxy from further away – as a whole and from outside, natch – thus it would seem smaller relative to our band of Milky Way viewed from inside and yet still very impressive at least in the early stages.

    I imagine we’d also get its companion galaxies accompanying it and looming larger in our skies eg. Messier 32 & M110 plus their smaller cousins – and these would make for richer skies as well.

    Could be interesting if & when the collision activates the central supermassive black holes in M31 and our own Galaxy as well although potentially bringing death from the skies if the event causes a reawakened quasar in one or both galaxies! :-o

    *****

    “Quasars are so luminous that if one was in action in a local group galaxy its brilliance would rival that of the Sun.”
    - P.284, Ferris, ‘Seeing in the Dark’, Simon & Schuster, 2002.

  16. Marian

    It would be great if Dr. Rector could set up a feed of his gallery.

    The pictures are incredible.

  17. Chris Winter

    Yep, another beautiful image. Also it reminds me strangely of the climactic scene from ST:TNG’s “Encounter at Farpoint.”

  18. CoffeeCupContrails

    Absolutely beautiful!

    In case Dr. Rector reads these comments, here are the Hive’s recommendations:

    1. An RSS feed, so I get updates on Google Reader… I visit a ton of sites, blaming Phil along the way; I’d love reminders to keep visiting your site.
    2. A Google+ or Twitter account to go with your FB a/c – even if only to mention new posts.
    (many apologies if this is an inconvenience! Many of your readers, me and my friends don’t use FB at all)
    3. Downloadable images (easy link) for wallpapers in a few different sizes; with appropriate watermark signatures of course!

    Congrats Dr. Rector. Thanks Phil!

  19. Ok, I’ll look into adding an RSS feed. I’ve never done it, but it’s not hard, right? Probably won’t do Google+ or Twitter but I’ll think about it. All of the deep sky images I’ve made are copyright AURA, Inc. and may be downloaded and used for personal, non-commercia use at no charge. So no need for a watermark. Finally, you may download multiple resolutions of the images from my website and at the NOAO/Gemini websites as well.

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