Image Submissions for Beautiful Universe 2008

Below is a set featuring some of my favorite images for your review and consideration. Thank you for allowing me to submit them! Please click on the image to review a larger version. Select the small icon that accompanies each picture to download a full resolution master TIF file. My images may be cropped, mirrored, flipped or rotated to meet your requirements and my descriptions may be ignored or edited. These images are optimized for a web presentation therefore some pictures may need to be adjusted for printing. If you believe alternations in brightness or contrast are needed, please feel free to make them.

Looking for a different image? All of my full resolution master TIF files are available here. Please feel free to use any of them instead of the pictures I have selected below.

All image files and descriptions are copyright ©2004- 2007 by R Jay GaBany.

 
 



Something very special can only be seen and experienced when looking through an eyepiece or gazing directly up at the heavens. Our eyes allow us to touch the stars and no picture can do that. Following are my attempts to offer the best alternative I can muster without having you standing with me and my instrument while we share a dark night sky together.



 
 



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The Silver Dollar Galaxy in Sculptor (NGC 253)
Date:  September 28- November 7, 2005
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:  315 minutes Luminance, 90 minutes Red, 54 minutes Green and 144 minutes Blue (All 1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
  Download cropped full resolution .tif file (central region)
Like a great galactic battleship bristling with artillery, this subject cruises off the Milky Way's coast in the vast southern cosmic sea. I've always had a fascination with things that are nautical by nature, and was struck that I could even see this lead ship of the southern fleet from my New Mexico Observatory.

Pictures, even those produced by major observatories, offered tantalizing hints of amazing structures across its disk- but none showed anything clearly. This image was my attempt to resolve, what turned out to be, the profusion of perpendicular jets evidencing vigorous new star production in this very active island universe.

 
 



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The Christmas Tree Cluster (NGC 2264) and Cone Nebula in Monoceros
Date:  December 1- 5, 2005
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:  255 minutes Luminance, 120 minutes Red, 72 minutes Green and 108 minutes Blue (All 1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
The extravagance of stars, its festive coloration and even the presence of a cone-shaped structure suggested the seasonal qualities of this subject even to viewers unaware of its common name. Produced in the weeks prior to Christmas 2005, this picture was offered as a Season's Greetings to my fellow on-line astro imagers.
 
 



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The Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) and NGC 2023 in Orion
Date:  September 10- December 7, 2005
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:  495 minutes Luminance, 180 minutes Red, 144 minutes Green and 216 minutes Blue (All 1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
I have never considered the subjects of my pictures to be "objects" any more than I would assign such a label to a far off mountain sittting on the horizon. To me, they are places- enormously huge, incomprehensibly remote, and destinations that our progeny will someday visit and know first hand in the distant future. This project was, therefore, my fist attempt to render an image with spacial queues that suggested a sense of place.
 
 



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NGC 891 in Andromeda
Date:   November 19, 2006- August 11, 2007
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:   705 minutes Luminance, 180 minutes Red, 108 minutes Green and 216 minutes Blue (All 1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
  Download cropped full resolution .tif file
This is a favorite target for visual stargazers because its relative brightness allows views of the central dust lane through modest telescopes. It's also one of the most photographed galaxies in the northern skies so I became curious to see if my 20-inch instrument would provide incremental clarity to the wealth of great images already produced by others. NGC 891 is wracked by furious new star production as evidenced by the jets of dust and gas that gush like geysers vertically above and below the dust engorged edge of its broad, flattened disk. Eventually, these streams slow their vertical ascent, shift to a horizontal orientation high above the galaxy's plane and, over time, rain inward to serve as material for future stellar births. I was happily surprised (and frankly, quite lucky!) that this recent image revealed these trails of dust with good clarity.
 
 



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M-82 in Ursa Major
Date:  January 24- March 2, 2006
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:  390 minutes Luminance, 165 minutes Red, 99 minutes Green and 198 minutes Blue (All 1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
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  Download cropped full resolution .tif file
If you walk outside on a clear, moonless evening and tilt your eyes upward, you can find yourself staring deeply into the heart of eternity! Glittering like shards of broken glass caught in a spot light, the stars can provide you with a sense of serenity that enables you to forget your daily concerns, if only, for a few moments. But, were it not for their great distance, our understanding of humankind's fragility would become readily more apparent- when viewed by a telescope and camera, the Universe is seen as a place filled with routine violence on an unbelieveable scale. For example, a close encounter with a nearby galaxy left this island universe stupendously ruptured and distorted. Uncontrolled stellar explosions and boundless new star production continue to wreak havoc many millions of years later as evidenced by the ruddy, and golden, dust and gas streamers. At first, I did not believe that some of the structures in this image were real. However, two days after this image was completed, a new picture of this galaxy was released by the Spitzer Space Telescope. It confirmed that everything I had captured and rendered were factual.
 
 



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The Iris Nebula (NGC 7023) in Cepheus
Date:  May 22- May 30, 2006
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:   570 minutes Luminance, 225 minutes Red, 135 minutes Green and 270 minutes Blue (1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
After many months of renting time on a remote telescope to escape the light polluted skies of my home town, San Jose, California, I was fortunate enough to acquire my own large instrument and lease a vacant observatory situated under dark, clear skies with above average seeing. Since flowers are usually presented at special occassions, I thought this subject was appropriate for my first light image.
 
 



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The Trifid Nebula (M20) in Sagittarius
Date:  April 7- June 7, 2005
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000
Exposure:  240 minutes Luminance, 90 minutes Red, 54 minutes Green and 108 minutes Blue (1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
Like a scene taken from J.R.R.Tolkien's Middle Earth, I have always been fascinted by the organic appearance of the structures in the Trifid Nebula's central region. This nebula is also considered one of the most beautiful subjects in the night sky ranking at or near the top of most favorite lists along with the Great Orion and Horsehead nebulae.
 
 



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The Foxface Nebula (NGC 1788) in Orion
Date:   October 29- November 19, 2006
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:   675 minutes Luminance, 195 minutes Red, 117 minutes Green and 234 minutes Blue (1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
It isn't often that you stumble on something somewhat unique and relatively unknown but that's what happened when I chanced upon this subject. The elongated, darker cloud that hangs in front of the larger, brighter nebula (the fox's snout) is an active star forming region. Waves of new star energy, pouring out from within the dark globule, are significantly disturbing the surrounding area- you can see the effect of these blasts on the cloud patterns. The blue, teal and yellow hues are from light reflecting off dust that engulfs this area. The brighter red material, that loops and curls, represents hydrogen gas that has been excited to glow by the energy released from newly formed stars.
 
 



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NGC 2903 in Leo
Date:   February 11- 25, 2007
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:   550 minutes Luminance, 255 minutes Red, 145 minutes Green and 306 minutes Blue (All 1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
  Download cropped full resolution .tif file
Somehow, Charles Messier overlooked this relatively bright barred-spiral galaxy. Exceptional atmospheric conditions enabled the exposure of unusually clear images used to construct this picture. Looking through a curtain of stars that are actually in our own Galaxy, this image shows amazing, cataclysmic activity as we peer down into the bar and across the disc of this much more distant galaxy! NGC 2903 has been known to contain numerous hot spots of violent stellar activity and this image clearly shows the results of that description: spectacular jets, looping and arching dust lanes and huge winding partial rings of gas and dust clouds rising up from the galaxy's plane. In short, this galaxy is experiencing multiple, simultaneous, explosive events on an unimaginable scale! This galaxy has been described as being similar to our own, but I believe this picture casts some doubts on taking that analogy too literally.
 
 



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NGC 1097 in Fornax
Date:   August 30- October 22, 2006
Place:  Scoresby, Victoria, Australia and Cloudcroft, NM both via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  RCOS 12 inch and RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:   595 minutes Luminance, 225 minutes Red, 135 minutes Green and 270 minutes Blue (1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
The constellation of Fornax lies low to the horizon for observers in the northern hemisphere and although having an observatory located over 7,000 feet above sea level in the south-central New Mexico mountains can offer a decent view, the best exposures are only available from a far more southern location, such as Australia.

NGC 1097 lies about 45 million light-years from Earth and features four remarkable jets emanating from a super massive black hole that purrs within its central region. These jets were discovered, optically, back in 1975 with the then new 4-meter reflector at Cerro Tololo in Chile. Two of those jets can be seen in this image, the other two, located approximately 35 or so degrees from these, were lost in the sky glow noise of this cumulative 14 hour exposure.

 
 



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The Tarantula Nebula in Dorado (NGC 2070)
Date:   October 23- November 24, 2006
Place:  Scoresby, Victoria, Australia via the Internet from San Jose, California, USA
Equipment:  RCOS 12 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Exposure:   395 minutes Luminance, 120 minutes Red, 120 minutes Green and 120 minutes Blue (All 1X1)
Focal ratio:  f/8
  Download full resolution .tif file
Two of the Milky Way's small galactic companions can be seen with unaided vision from a dark site near the equator or anywhere in the southern hemisphere that does not have nighttime light pollution. They are called the Magellanic Clouds because of their misty appearance to the crew on one of Magellan's early voyages of discovery that followed a route through the southern seas to Australia. The larger of the two is located about 150,000 light years from Earth (remember that a light year represents about ten trillion miles or six trillion kilometers) and it contains one of the most beautifully bizarre regions where new stars are forming. Known as the Tarantula Nebula, this stellar nursery is about 1,000 light years in diameter!
 
 



The Lagoon Nebula (M8 -Central Region)
Date:   Luminance data: June 1- 19, 2006;
Color data: June 19, 2007*
Place:  Cloudcroft, NM via the Internet from San Jose, CA
Equipment:  Luminance: RCOS 20 inch, SBIG STL-11000;
Color: Takahashi FSQ 106, SBIG STL-6303*
Exposure:   285 minutes Luminance, 45 minutes Red, 45 minutes Green and 45 minutes Blue (All 1X1)*
Focal ratio:  Luminance: f/8;
Color: f/5*
*Supplemental:  This is a composite image produced with luminance exposures taken through a 20-inch Ritchey-Chretien telescope and color exposures produced with a 4-inch astrographic refractor. 135 minutes of synthetic luminance derived from the color exposures was combined with 150 minutes of traditional clear filtered luminance exposures from the 20-inch telescope.
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Sometimes good things come to those who wait and this picture is a good example of that adage! This image was produced with luminance exposures from my 20-inch Ritchey-Chretien telescope taken in 2006. Before the color information could be gathered, seasonal bad weather settled into New Mexico, where my remote observatory is located, making it impossible to acquire any additional data. The color information was finally obtained with a 4-inch astrographic refractor in 2007 during a period when my 20-inch instrument was being repaired.

Much of the glare normally seen in pictures of this subject has been removed to show that the amount of activity in this region is extraordinarily powerful and furious! Enormous jets of energetic dust and gas, hundreds of light years in length, can be seen arcing upward from the bright, towering, central star producing factory. The orientation of this view reinforces the perspective that our Earth-bound glimpse places us above one end of a deep oblong valley of gas and dust hollowed out by the stellar winds blowing from the star nursery that is hanging above.

 
  
R. Jay GaBany biography
Photo credit: Andrew GaBany
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My interest in astronomy started at an early age, sparked by the Apollo Moon Landing program. I remember looking at the moon through my 60 mm refractor when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were bouncing on the lunar surface. Carl Sagan's vision ignited my adult enthusiasm for astronomy like gasoline on a fire when Cosmos debuted on PBS in 1980 and shortly thereafter I acquired my first 8 inch Meade SCT.

Many other telescopes followed as did two years learning how to image with a 35mm camera in time for the passing of Halley's comet in 1986. Family, kids, career and expenses, however, turned me into a spectator as amateur astronomy converted from film to CCD during the 1990's.

My fascination with imaging was rekindled during an un-planned late night tour of personal websites filled with fantastic CCD images. Images by Russell Croman, Adam Block and the Spiegelteam fired my imagination. But it was the striking pictures of Robert Gendler that convinced me to re-engage with this aspect of the hobby. It has been the most challenging, rewarding and addictive activity I have ever undertaken- far surpassing the years I spent learning software languages in my South Windsor, CT home basement at night!

Moving from Connecticut to San Jose, California in 1997, I applied my 23 years managing large corporate travel agencies into the design of corporate web-based travel applications. While I am lucky to live in an area with seemingly endless clear nights from late May to late October, I also have to contend with serious light pollution from the metropolitan area, a local mall and neighborhood street lights. After many months of imaging from my backyard with modest success, I began exposing pictures using remotely controlled instruments located under very dark skies in New Mexico and near Melbourne, Australia. The results were significantly improved!

I am a member of the Board of Directors for the annual Advanced Imaging Conference and am a member of the Kitt Peak Visitor Center Advisory Board. I have had the honor of being asked to speak before various audiences, have been interviewed on live radio, have written almost fifty articles for the daily web magazine/blog called the Universe Today, been featured in magazine articles and received an award from the industry's leading astronomical camera manufacturer, SBIG. Over eighty percent of my images have appeared in magazines published around the world and on popular astronomical websites such as the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).