This picture combine a series of seven images taken at the UA campus observatory on the evening of March 28, 2007. The small near-Earth asteroid 2006 VV2 was nearing an approach within about eight times the Moon's distance as its orbit brought it from extreme northern skies southward. For a half-hour period, it appeared in the same field of view as the bright spiral galaxy M81. This puts me in mind of a certain set of commercials: "You got asteroid in my galaxy! You got galaxy in my asteroid!" Or to quote a long-running TV show, "Incoming!"
This is the kind of view to make one wax poetic about the depths of space. 2006 VV2 was about 15 light-seconds from Earth when these images were obtained (about 4.6 million km). In the background, M81 is about 10 million light-years from us, or roughly 20 trillion times farther away. If you look carefully, even against the moonlit sky, a few much more distant galaxies appear in the background, stretching a hundred times farther into space and time.
Here is an animated GIF image showing the individual frames coadded above. Each is a 5-minute exposure, through an I-band filter to reduce the effects of bright moonlight. This filter somewhat muted the bright blue star-forming regions in the spiral arms, making the galaxy look a bit smoother than in more familiar blue-light pictures. Click on the animation for a larger view.
Last changes: 3/2007 © 2007