November 27th, 2011

telescope Crown Optics

Astro-Porn of the Day: Backyard astronomer photographs alien solar system!

WOW! Who needs a huge observatory instrument to take amazing astrophotos? Not Rolf Olsen of New Zealand, for one. Behold, the first amateur photo of a protoplanetary disc around another star:

Click the image to see Olsen's page about this project.

The dashed line indicates the plane of the solar-system disc, almost edge-on from our Earthly perspective. For comparison, here's an image of Beta Pictoris as taken by the professional observatory at Las Campanas (note that it's rotated 90° from Olsen's photo):

Click the image to see the Daily Mail story.

These photos show the protoplanetary disc of gas, dust, and rock orbiting the star Beta Pictoris, 63 light-years away from Earth. This very young solar system is only about 12 million years old and shows how our own Solar System looked 4.5 billion years ago.

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And that's it! Oh, and did I mention that Olsen only uses a 10" f/5 Newtonian telescope with a modified Philips ToUCam Pro webcam? Whoah. Oh, and he built the truss-tube setup himself. This guy is my hero:

Click the image to see the full description of the telescope and construction photos.

Let this be an inspiration to the budding astrophotographer in you!