Castle Point Astronomy Club
Quasar 3C 273 in Virgo by Pete Carson
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Quasar 3C 273 in Virgo by Pete Carson
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Televue TVNP101 100mm APO refractor 540mm fl.

Sbig ST4 autoguider

Starlight Xpress HX916 CCD camera

IDAS LPR filter with True Tech RGB colour filters

LRGB image, L3mins 1x1 R1mins 1x1, G1mins 1x1, B1mins 1x1 all 20sec sub exposures

You can see more of Peter Carson's photographs on his website by going to our Links page page.

Peter says, "The farthest thing you can see with the naked eye is the Andromeda Galaxy at 2.5 million light years. With binoculars you can spot the Virgo galaxies at about 50 million light years. With an 8 to 10 inch telescope this object 3C 273 is probably the most distant object you can observe visually at 1.9 billion light years !!! This quasar is about magnitude 12 to 13 and its light has been travelling across space to go down my telescope for about half the age of the Earth itself."

Now it has to be said that judging by this photograph, 3C 273 is not the most picturesque or photogenic object in the cosmos. The images on Peterís own web site, along with those that can be found all over the worldwide web and within the pages of glossy coffee table books, show that there is no shortage of amazingly beautiful objects out there.

So we asked Peter what it was that attracted him to 3C 273 and what was going through his mind as he took the picture.

He told us "Astrophotographers photograph celestial objects mainly to record their beauty in more detail than it is possible to view with the eye and telescope alone. A photograph can also penetrate the far reaches of our universe and record faint celestial objects well beyond that which it is possible to observe by eye. In the periods spent under the stars waiting for the usually long camera exposures to finish I have often pondered the vast distances that light has travelled before entering my telescope. In a clear dark sky, light from our nearest galactic neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, can be seen with the naked eye. This light has travelled across space for around two and a half million years despite the fact that the Andromeda galaxy is relatively nearby on the cosmic scale. My imaging telescope at 100 mm is small even by amateur standards and I wondered what the farthest object was that I could easily record on a photograph. My investigation led me to 3C 273, a quasar, a very distant and energetic core of a galaxy probably containing a super massive black hole. The light from this quasar takes 1.9 billion years to cross space to Earth and left its surface when our solar system had only just started to form. 3C 273 might only appear as a white dot on the photograph but thatís not the point. That tiny collection of charged pixels in the camera that caused the object to be recorded was energised by light that left an object that is unimaginably distant. So distant in fact that during the 1.9 billion years that the light has taken to reach us the object will have evolved into something the Human race will probably never see."


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