The Human Orrery: Distant Objects on the Outer Ring


Another feature of the Human Orrery is its outer metal ring, which lies along the outside edge of the red path marked on the diagram below (the scale is in metres). The outer ring shows the direction to objects which could not be displayed within the confines of the exhibit. These objects are listed below and their significance is also explained. (For a full list of the outer ring objects click here)



Gravitational Lens

Located in the Constellation: Pisces

Description: The Gravitational lens in question is the Galaxy Cluster 0024+1654 (5 billion light years away). This is a very large cluster of galaxies which bends the incoming light from a more distant galaxy (10 billion light years away), magnifying and distorting the image. The Galaxy Cluster is referred to as a Gravitational Lens since it acts similarly to a pair of glasses but here instead of glass altering the image, it is actually gravity doing the bending. Picture credit: NASA.

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M74

Located in the Constellation: Pisces

Description: M74 belongs to the "Sc" galaxy type, meaning that it is a loose spiral galaxy. It lies approximately 35 million light years away. It was discovered in 1780 and recently two supernovae have been observed within it. Image credit: NASA.

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Hamal

Located in the Constellation: Aries

Description: Hamal (or alpha Arietis) is the brightest star in the constellation Aries (apparent magnitude of 2.0). This K-Type star is located 65.9 light years away. It is also sometimes referred to as "ras al-hamal" or "head of the sheep" to distinguish it from the constellation in which it lies. Image credit: James B. Kaler, copyright.

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Sedna (on 2005 January 1)

Located in the Constellation: Aries

Description: Soon after it was discovered, on 2003 November 14, Sedna was seriously considered as the "tenth planet" in the Solar System. The "planet" is approximately two-thirds the diameter of Pluto. Such a size was (up until recently) thought to be a considerable figure for an object beyond Pluto. However with the discovery, announced on 2005 July 29, of 2003 UB313, the debate about a "tenth planet" and the actual definition of a "planet" rages on. The diagram displays the diameters of Earth, our Moon, Mars, Pluto, Sedna, Charon (Pluto's orbiting body), Quaoar (another new "planet") and 2003 UB313 (the most recent discovery). Picture credit: BBC.

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The Pleiades

Located in the Constellation: Taurus

Description: Other names for this open cluster of stars include "The Seven Sisters" and M45. The Pleiades have been found to reside approximately 440 light years away and have been used as a tool to measure the distance to other objects in the night sky. The cluster acquires its captivating looks from reflection nebulosity where light from the brightest stars reflects off of dust from their stellar birth. The majority of stars in the Pleiades are hot blue stars. Image credit: NASA.

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The Hyades

Located in the Constellation: Taurus

Description: About 150 light years away, the Hyades are the nearest open cluster to the Sun (apart from the Ursa Major cluster, but that appears on the sky as well dispersed individual stars). Their distance can be found from knowledge of their common convergence point (near Betelgeuse), radial velocity and proper motion. Image credit: Till Credner & Sven Kohle, AlltheSky.com, copyright.

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Crab Nebula

Located in the Constellation: Taurus

Description: The Crab Nebula is the remains of a supernova observed by the Chinese and others in 1054. It lies at a distance of 6500 light years from Earth and has at its heart a neutron star which rotates 30 times per second. The NASA image seen here is a combination of optical data from Hubble (red areas) and X-Ray data from Chandra (blue areas).

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Castor

Located in the Constellation: Gemini

Description: Castor is the second brightest star in Gemini, after Pollux. Its magnitude as seen by the naked eye is 1.6 and it is 52 light years distant. That brightness, however, is the combined effect of not just one but six stars, in three pairs, all orbiting about each other. It is not an especially large star, about twice the Sun's diameter. Image credit: James B. Kaler, copyright.

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Pollux

Located in the Constellation: Gemini

Description: Pollux is the brighter of the Gemini twins. At 34 light years from us, it is physically unrelated to Castor. It is an orange-coloured cool giant. Its diameter of the order of ten times the Sun's makes it smaller than most cool giants. Pollux emits X-rays and there is evidence for a hot, outer, magnetically supported corona which could be similar to the Sun's.

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55 Cancri

Located in the Constellation: Cancer

Description: 55 Cancri is a multiple planet system with a dust disc. It is a binary star system: the primary being a 6th magnitude star similar to our Sun and the companion star being a dim red dwarf. With four planets in the system, 55 Cancri is possibly the largest extrasolar planetary system yet discovered. It is located 41 light years from Earth. Image acquired from SIMBAD database, operated at CDS, Strasbourg, France.

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M67

Located in the Constellation: Cancer

Description: Messier object M67 is an open cluster, a comparatively close object in Messier's catalogue at a distance of 3 thousand light years. Image credit: AAO.

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Regulus

Located in the Constellation: Leo

Description: Regulus is a first magnitude star and the brightest star in Leo, one of the most distinctive constellations of the zodiac. It is at a distance of 77 light years from Earth. The Latin name means "the little king" or "prince", the reference to a kingly star dating from ancient times. Image credit: James B. Kaler, copyright.

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Wolf 359

Located in the Constellation: Leo

Description: This extremely faint star is the third closest to the Sun after the Alpha Centauri system and Barnard's Star. It is only about 7.8 light-years from us, in the eastern half of Leo. Wolf 359 is much too faint to be seen by the naked eye. Picture credit: Mark Kochte / NASA HST.

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M87

Located in the Constellation: Virgo

Description: The giant elliptical galaxy M87, also known as Virgo A, dominates the closest big galaxy cluster to us, the famous Virgo Cluster (which can, as it extends into the constellation Coma, more accurately be called the "Coma-Virgo cluster"), and is about 60 million light-years away. Image credit: Anglo-Australian Observatory, copyright.

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(Quasar) 3C273

Located in the Constellation: Virgo

Description: 3C273 is one of the first and brightest Quasars. It has an absolute magnitude of -26.7 and has a prominent jet. Quasars are very bright objects at extreme astronomical distances - in this case, several billion light years away. Due to the extreme luminosity of 3C273, it can be observed with an amateur astronomer's telescope. Image credit: Kitt Peak National Observatory (NOAO/AURA/NSF).

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M104

Located in the Constellation: Virgo

Description: The galaxy M104 is also known as the Sombrero Galaxy because of the way it looks when seen close to edge-on from Earth. The galaxy has a large bright core, well-defined spiral arms, a thick dark rim of obscuring dust around its equatorial plane, and a very pronounced bulge with many hundreds of globular clusters. Picture credit: Todd Boroson/NOAO/AURA/NSF.

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Spica

Located in the Constellation: Virgo

Description: Spica is the brightest star in Virgo. Despite being 260 light years away, Spica is nevertheless a first magnitude star, which shows how bright it is intrinsically, over 2000 times the solar luminosity. The apparent brightness in reality results from two stars very close together, which are hard to study individually. Their orbit around each other is slightly elliptical, with a period of four days, the separation between them being just 0.12 Astronomical Units. Image credit: James B. Kaler, copyright (Mars was in Virgo in mid-1999).

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Sco X-1

Located in the Constellation: Scorpius

Description: The low-mass X-ray binary Sco X-1 was the first X-ray source in the sky, apart from the Sun, to be detected (in 1962, with its location being determined accurately in 1966). Sco X-1 is not especially bright visually, but in X-rays it dominates the sky, indeed many imaging X-ray instruments avoid it as it is too bright for their detectors. The two components of Sco X-1 are a dense neutron star, and a fainter smaller star more like the Sun; the former is accreting mass from its smaller companion.

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Antares

Located in the Constellation: Scorpius

Description: Antares (seen within the yellow/orange cloud in the picture here) is a red supergiant star that is seven or eight hundred times larger than the Sun in diameter (i.e. hundreds of millions of times the volume), but only 10,000 times more luminous and 15 or so times the mass. Image credit: Anglo-Australian Obs./Royal Obs. Edinburgh, copyright.

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Pluto (on 2005 January 1)

Located in the Constellation: Ophiuchus

Description: Pluto is the ninth planet from the sun however due to its eccentric orbit, it occasionally comes within the orbit of Neptune, thus becoming the eighth planet from the sun. Upon its discovery in 1930, it was immediately classified as a planet, although it is now clear that it would not be regarded as a major planet if it had been found in recent years. It has a satellite named Charon (and also two very small moons were discovered recently). Early 2006 saw the launch of the "New Horizons" probe to Pluto, its journey scheduled to take about ten years. Scientists are hopeful that it will provide us with much information about the currently most mysterious planet in our solar system. Image credit: NASA.

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Galactic Centre

Located in the Constellation: Sagittarius

Description: The Galactic Centre is considered the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way, and lies approximately 26,000 light years away. Many astronomers believe that at this rotational centre lies a Supermassive Black Hole which gives rise to a very concentrated radio source. An increased rate of star formation and destruction in approximately 200 million years is predicted. The image shown is a radio telescope image of the galactic plane at a frequency of 408MHz. Image credit: G. Haslam et al., MPIfR, SkyView.

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Trifid Nebula

Located in the Constellation: Sagittarius

Description: The Trifid Nebula or M20 is famous for its three-lobed appearance. It is a relatively close member of Messier's catalogue being located at about 5000 light years from earth. Image credit: Jeff Hester (Arizona State University) and NASA.

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SagDEG

Located in the Constellation: Sagittarius

Description: The Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy (SagDEG) is part of the local group of galaxies and was, at the time of its discoverery in 1994, the nearest known galaxy external to our own. At a distance of about 88,000 light years it is significantly closer than the Large Magellanic Cloud which had previously been our closest known companion. SagDEG is currently undergoing a very close encounter with our own, much larger, galaxy. This encounter has tidally disrupted SagDEG and caused debris from it to stretch out into a stream encircling our galaxy. Picture credit: David Martinez-Delgado & Gabriel Perez.

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Neptune (on 2005 January 1)

Located in the Constellation: Capricornus

Description: Neptune is the outermost gas giant in our solar system and although the smallest of the four gas giants, it is more massive than Uranus since Neptune's stronger gravitational field has compressed it to a higher density. There are 2,000 km/h winds of hydrogen, helium, and methane in its atmosphere, with the absorption of red light by methane leading to the planet's blue colour. Faint dark rings have been detected around Neptune but are a lot less substantial than those of Saturn. Image credit: NASA.

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M30

Located in the Constellation: Capricornus

Description: Messier object M30 is a globular cluster. These structures exist when tens of thousands or more stars are bound together by their respective gravitational fields. It is a relatively close member of Messier's catalogue being located at about 26 thousand light years from Earth. Image credit: Bill Keel / KPNO.

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Helix Nebula

Located in the Constellation: Aquarius

Description: This is how our sun may look billions of years from now. The Helix Nebula is the closest example of a planetary nebula created when a Sun-like star's life ends. The outer gases of the star ejected into space give the impression, from our viewing direction, of looking down a helix. What remains of the star at the centre glows in light so energetic it causes the ejected gas to fluoresce. The star itself will become a white dwarf. Image credit: NASA.

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Uranus (on 2005 January 1)

Located in the Constellation: Aquarius

Description: Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun. Of the gas giants, it is the third largest by diameter and fourth largest by mass. Interestingly its spin axis lies very close to the plane of its orbit around the Sun, leading to unusual seasons. Uranus also has unique magnetic and electric field structures. There is a faint ring system around the planet and 27 known moons as of 2005. Image credit: NASA.

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Created by Brendan Owens

Updated by Kristina Boneva

Last Revised: 2009 November 6th