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Abell 1656 (The Coma Cluster)

Abell 1656 - The Coma Cluster in Coma Berenices Abell 1656 - The Coma Cluster in Coma Berenices ©2015 Frederick Steiling
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Target Information
Main Target Designations Abell 1656
RA Center 12h 59m 51.708s
DEC Center +28° 00' 26.45"
Rotation -0.311°
One-shot color 69x900" (ISO1600)
Total Integration 9hrs 0min
Date(s) of acquisition 20Apr2015, 22Apr2015
Location Whiteside, MO
Imager Olympus E-P5
Telescope/Lens Orion 8" f/3.9 Astrograph
Mount Celestron CGEM
Guiding Apparatus Orion ST80 (piggyback)
Guiding Camera Orion SSAG
Coma Corrector Baader MPCC Mark III
Collimator Orion LaserMate
Focusing Bahtinov mask
Acquisition Manual (remote shutter)
Guiding PHD2
Processing PixInsight 1.8

This is it.  This is why I started doing this.

We've come to water down the term "astronomical."  We use it to describe a higher-than-expected utility bill, the price of gasoline, the number of times we've asked the kids to clean their rooms, and the seemingly countless things we still have to fix up the house.  This image is sure to make you re-adjust!

The Coma Cluster is a galaxy cluster in the constellation Coma Berenices (from which it gleans its name).  It's a slice of the Coma Supercluster, and contains roughly 1,000 galaxies, a great handful of which I've been fortunate enough to expose here.

At a mammoth distance of about 320 million light years from us, this cluster gives us a glimpse into how much is out there.  In a part of the sky about the same size as our moon, we can peer deep into the heart of this supercluster and appreciate the countless stars and endless shapes of the galaxies they form.  It's dominated in the center by 2 giant diffuse elliptical galaxies (NGC4874 and NGC4889), the latter of which is the largest and heaviest galaxy easily observable from Earth.  Several larger and brighter barred spiral galaxies make splendid appearances, including NGC4921 (bottom left of the image), a face-on spiral galaxy with an unusually small amount of star formation activity that, despite this characteristic, sits as the brightest galaxy in the Coma Cluster.  After scanning the image for galaxies yourself, be sure to open the NGC/IC and PGC annotated images in the acquisition table and see if you've found all the "major" ones!

The treats in this image don't end there.  Quasars, some of the most distant and energetic objects yet known in our universe, make appearances through the Coma Cluster as well.  "Far away" doesn't begin to describe the reaches of the scale we're on to.  In one of the annotated images, I've labeled Quasar HB89.  It's a dot on this image, but there's more than meets the eye.  This quasar sits at a distance of more than 18 billion light years.  Indeed, light released by the quasar some 18 billion years ago, bounding through space at the speed of light, ended its journey on the face of my camera sensor.  To put that in perspective, the light was already traveling 6 billion years before the Earth was formed.

This image was an enormous beneficiary of my attempt at 15' subexposures and first multi-night imaging session.  The longer sub frames really helped in maximizing faint detail of this crowded but dim area of our sky.  Turning in 2 nights on it gave me 9 hours of total exposure time, which further maximized the signal from these creatures while kicking back the noise.  The result is an image that I'll never stop coming back to.  I can only sit and smile when thinking of anyone else that has the same existential crisis I do when studying it.  This is astronomical.

There's a lot out there, and even more yet to uncover.

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