Faulkes Telescope Observations

Luminous Red Nova in Messier 101 and other observations

We had the opportunity to take part in a work experience project in the Armagh Observatory in 2015 from March 30th to April 2nd, during which we used the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network to obtain images of various celestial bodies including the Galaxies M83, M88 and M99 which we combined 3 different images created using different filters using the software DS9. We also obtained images of the comets C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) and C/2013 V2 (Borisov), which we used to measure their positions and trajectory. Some of these images can be seen below.



Galaxy Messier 83. Images obtained using the Faulkes Telescope North at Haleakala, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory.



Galaxy Messier 88. Images obtained using the Faulkes Telescope North at Haleakala, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory.



Galaxy Messier 99. Images obtained using the Faulkes Telescope North at Haleakala, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory.



Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring). Images obtained using the Faulkes Telescope North at Haleakala, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory.

Although the focus of our time at the project was the recently detected nova at the edge of Messier 101. This galaxy can be found within the constellation Ursa Major and is commonly known as the Pinwheel Galaxy. With a diameter of about 170,000 light years, Messier 101 is approximately 70% larger than our own galaxy, The Milky Way. The distance between the Earth and M101 is 21 million light years (6 megaparsecs), and so we are currently seeing the state of the Pinwheel Galaxy 21 million years ago. The galaxy is quite bright, sitting at a current magnitude of 7.86, and taking up an area of 28'.8 x 26'.9 arcminutes in our night sky. Its pattern is believed to be created by the gravitational interaction between it and its satellites.

The nova was first observed by Romanian amateur astronomer, Dumitru Ciprian Vîntdevară, on February 10th 2015, when it had a magnitude of 16.5. Its presence was then confirmed by New Zealander Stu Parker using a Spanish telescope. It was identified in mid-March that the object was a Luminous Red Nova (LRN), which are though to be caused by the merging of 2 main sequence stars, although this is debatable. A LRN is characteriesed by the distinctive red colour, which becomes dimmer and redder over time and can last for an extended period of time. Very few of these objects have been observed such as M31 RV in the Andromeda Galaxy and M85 OT2006-1 in the Virgo cluster.

Our images of the LRN in Messier 101 are shown below:



The Luminous Red Nova in M101 with a 1m telescope. Images obtained using the telescope at McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory. Click on image to enlarge.



The Luminous Red Nova as viewed with a 2m telescope. Images obtained using Faulkes Telescope North at Haleakala, operated by Las Cumbres Observatory. Click on image to enlarge.

We would like to thank all the staff at the Armagh Observatory including David and Ruxandra who made this work experience enjoyable all of us. We would also like to thank the Las Cumbres Observatory and Faulkes Telescope Project for giving us time to use their telescopes which allowed us to make these observations.

– Dylan, Eloise, Fionntán, Galen, Holly and Raymond

2015 April 2nd


More astronomical projects with the Faulkes Telescopes



Last Revised: 2015 April 4th