Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hickson 37 - Faulkes North Telescope

In the '80's, Paul Hickson created a catalog of compact galaxy groupings that he used to study galactic evolution and gain the first evidence for that elusive material - dark matter. The Bristol Astronomical Society has been working with the Faulkes Telescope to image parts of the catalog in detail that only a research grade telescope and CCD camera can do justice.

This image is of Hickson 37 - a grouping of 5 galaxies (though a few more are visible on this image). I trawled the internet to try to find images of this grouping, but the best I found was from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) Digital Sky Survey plates. A direct link can be followed here if the hyper link works, else can be searched for using its SIMBAD name of HCG37, and the POSS2/UKSTU Red plate here.

A set of 3 frames per channel (RGB) were taken, each of exposure 240 seconds, using the 2m F/10 Ritchey-Chretien Faulkes North telescope situated atop Haleakala on the H
awaiian island of Maui. These were then registered and processed with the fabulous free Iris image processing application, and PixInsight.

You can see a nice cross section of different types of galaxies here - from elliptical to spiral to barred spirals. I'm rather fond of the side-on sprial HCG37b - the dust lanes are quite exquisite in their detail! The biggest elliptical, HCG37a, is also known as NGC2783 and has a magnitude of around 13. This gives an insight in not only the faintness of the Hickson cluster members, but also the sensitivity the Faulkes Telescope CCDs.

The classification of the galaxies in the cluster for the annotation were located here, although there is no mention of the 2 small, almost perpendicular galaxies just to the side of HCG37a - incidentally they are only just visible on the DSS plates. I tried to ID these using various star charts to find their designations and magnitudes, but I could not find any mention of them. If anyone can shed some light on them, please do!


Anonymous Sakib said...

That is one of the nicest Hickson groups besides the well known ones. Another beautiful one is Hickson 23 in Eridanus.

8:59 pm  

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