Advertisements

Cassini Spots the Sombrero Galaxy from Saturn

M104 imaged five years apart from Cassini on April 12, 2015 (left) and from the Subaru Telescope on April 12, 2015 (right). Credits: NASA/JPL/SSI/J. Major and NAOJ.

M104 imaged five years apart – from Cassini on April 12, 2015 (left) and from the Subaru Telescope on April 12, 2015 (right). Credits: NASA/JPL/SSI/J. Major and NAOJ.

We’re all used to seeing fantastic images of Saturn and its family of moons from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has spent the last decade in orbit around the ringed world. But every now and then Cassini aims its cameras outwards, capturing images of the sky beyond Saturn – just like we might look up at the stars from here on Earth. And while it’s not designed to be a deep-space observatory like Hubble or Subaru (or even like a modest backyard telescope, really) Cassini can still resolve many of the same stars we can easily see in the night sky… and, on April 12, 2015, it spotted something much farther away: the Sombrero Galaxy (M104), 29 million light-years distant!

Coincidentally Cassini grabbed its image of M104 exactly five years after it was imaged with Japan’s Subaru Telescope, located atop Mauna Kea.

In the original raw image (N00238002) posted to the Cassini mission site the field of view is 1. rotated 180º from what we’d typically consider “north” (common in Cassini raw data) and 2. chock full of pixel noise. The latter is due to the long exposure time of the acquisition – stars, of course, are much dimmer than a giant planet or its icy, reflective moons.

Original raw Cassini image from April 12, 2015. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

Original raw Cassini image from April 12, 2015. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

But with a rotation of the image and a removal of noise, what’s left is the general shape of the bright blurry object at center and remaining stars, slightly elongated due to spacecraft movement during exposure.

Edited raw image of M104, cropped, rotated, with noise removed and brightness increased. (NASA/JPL/SSI/J. Major)

Edited raw image of M104, cropped, rotated, with noise removed and brightness increased. (NASA/JPL/SSI/J. Major)

Compare that to astrophotos of M104 and it’s clear that everything lines up – this is a galaxy, seen from Saturn! Even the Sombrero’s signature dark dust lines, seen nearly edge-on, can be made out.

Image of M104 made from data acquired by Hubble, Subaru, and amateur telescopes. Flipped horizontally to match Cassini's view. (APOD Feb. 5, 2015.) Credit: NASA, ESO , NAOJ, Giovanni Paglioli - Processing: R. Colombari.

Image of M104 made from data acquired by Hubble, Subaru, and amateur telescopes. Flipped horizontally to match Cassini’s view. (APOD Feb. 5, 2015.) Credit: NASA, ESO , NAOJ, Giovanni Paglioli – Processing: R. Colombari.

Of course when an object is 28 million light years away from Earth getting a view from a mere 900 million miles closer doesn’t make it any more detailed – and again, Cassini isn’t a deep-space telescope. But with an apparent magnitude of +8 M104 is quite bright for astronomical objects, although just outside the boundary of what we can spot with our naked eyes (but it is visible with binoculars.)

(A tip of the old sombrero to Mr. Kevin M. Gill, who noted the raw image and commented on its interesting nature on Twitter, sparking further investigation.)

Learn more about the Sombrero Galaxy here, and see more images from the Cassini mission here.

Note: These images or claims have not been validated by NASA, JPL, or the Space Science Institute. This is purely observational news using information available online.

Advertisements

About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on April 14, 2015, in Deep Space Objects and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. That is a beautiful image. Thanks for the explanation.

    Like

  2. Difficult for a french to read and understand the first pic title of new : “M104 imaged five years apart” then it’s write : “and from the Subaru Telescope on April 12, 2015 (right)”…
    Then that was in…2010 !!
    Thanks to rectify the pic tittle 😉
    Jeff Barani from Vence (France)

    Like

  1. Pingback: Cassini Spots the Sombrero Galaxy from Saturn | elviskavai

  2. Pingback: Morsels For The Mind – 17/04/2015 › Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast

  3. Pingback: Morsels For The Mind – 17/04/2015 | Sandora News Aggregator Portal

  4. Pingback: Weekly Space Hangout – April 17, 2015: Amy Shira Teitel and “Breaking the Chains of Gravity” | Prativad World News

  5. Pingback: Weekly Space Hangout – April 17, 2015: Amy Shira Teitel and "Breaking the Chains of Gravity" - Universe Today

Have an opinion about this? Leave a comment:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: