WEDNESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER: The winning picture from the 2009 Gemini School Astronomy Contest has been revealed. Students at PAL College have helped to celebrate the public unveiling of the image of the "Glowing Eye Nebula" (shown above) as part of the International Year of Astronomy. The nebula was observed with the Gemini South telescope at the suggestion of PAL College student Daniel Tran, whose Contest entry was judged as the best combination of scientific and artistic reasoning.
Daniel's attention was drawn to this particular nebula based on an image he saw in an online gallery. That earlier picture, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, captured only the innermost region of the nebula. As shown in this Quicktime movie, the image from Gemini South shows the full span of emission from the nebula, along with the surrounding environment.
The worldwide debut of the Contest image was held at PAL College, where Daniel is a year-10 student. To the cheers of Daniel's classmates, Dr. Christopher Onken of the Australian Gemini Office presented a commemorative version of the picture to Daniel and his teacher, David Lee (below).
After the students were wowed by the appearance of the image, the science behind the nebula was explained to the students by Dr. David Frew (Macquarie University - below). Dr. Frew explained that the nebula is the result of a star reaching the end of its life. The remaining core of the star has a surface temperature of over 100,000 Celsius, and is ionising the gas in the region nearby. Different atomic elements in the gas light up at different wavelengths, and special filters in the telescope's imaging camera isolate particular wavelengths and show the individual elemental components of the gas.
Daniel and his classmates had previously taken part in the other component of the Contest prize package: a "Live From Gemini" session that created a video link between the class and the Gemini Observatory control room in Hawaii (below). Peter Michaud, Gemini's Public Information & Outreach manager, then gave the students an introduction to the observatory and answered questions from the class. The class had even more questions on the morning of the unveiling, which were answered by Drs. Frew and Onken, along with Helen Sim, Australia's Single Point of Contact for the International Year of Astronomy.
To cap off the morning's events, the PAL College students in Years 7 & 8 thanked the speakers with a rousing rendition of "The Galaxy Song" from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
Congratulations to Daniel Tran and his classmates at PAL College! We hope that they are as excited about the fantastic Gemini image as we are. And we look forward to seeing their entries in the contest that the Australian Gemini Office is planning for 2010.
Technical details The Glowing Eye Nebula picture is a composite of images taken in three optical narrow-band filters, which isolated the H-alpha (yellow), [S II] (red), and [O III] (blue) emission lines. The observations used the imaging camera on the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS), and were acquired on the night of 24 July 2009.
Image Credits Glowing Eye Nebula (NGC6751): Daniel Tran (PAL College), Travis Rector (U. Alaska, Anchorage), Terry Bridges (Queen's University), and the Australian Gemini Office; PAL College presentation: David Marshall; Live From Gemini: Rob Hollow (CSIRO).
See the story on the Gemini Observatory website!
Australian Gemini Office, ausgo -@- aao.gov.au