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The Wall Township Public Schools Observatory has been undergoing pilot testing for the past month or two, and I have been opening the Observatory to a small group of teachers on clear nights. Last night was exceptionally clear, and I obtained the images, below, over the course of an hour or so.
The first image is of Messier 1 (M1), the Crab Nebula. The Messier objects, of which M1 is the first cataloged, is a list of astronomical objects prepared by the French astronomer Charles Messier in the late 1700s. Messier was interested only in comets, and prepared his list of “uninteresting” objects to avoid the frustration of re-discovering non-comets.
The Crab Nebula, M1, is a supernova remnant corresponding to a bright supernova first recorded in 1054. At the center of the nebula is the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning over 30 times per second. The pulsar is not visible in the image.
The second image is of Messier 15 (M15), a globular cluster in the constellation Pegasus. A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars that are tightly bound by gravity, and orbits the galactic core as a satellite. M15 is over 33,000 light-years from earth, contains about 100,000 stars, and is about 175 light-years in diameter. It is one of the most densely packed clusters in our galaxy.