Minkowski’s Butterfly

PN Minkowski 2-9 in Ophiuchus

My heart was beating when I opened my missions this morning. The angels had been kind. PN M2-9 must count as one of the most exciting observations I’ve ever made. Look at that central system and hint of varying shades in the wings.

First I have to give huge thanks to Slooh astronomer member JeffreyP.2019 for booking a mission to this object.
The name Minkowski’s Butterfly immediately caught my attention while I was reserving missions to Comet C/2018 W2 (Africano). I got on board immediately and piggybacked two missions to PN M 2-9 expecting to see a clone of the magnificent Hubble image.
I scrutinised the images for hours but could not find a clear indication of a butterfly.

In some forums guys were reporting observations of being able to see this object through 12″ telescopes, some obviously trying OIII and other filters. Quite apprehensive and not wanting to make a fool of myself, I ran two of my own missions last night, one on T2 and one on T4.

For those who, like me, have never seen this bipolar planetary nebula: What we are seeing is the last gasp of a binary star system.
“The two stars at the heart of the nebula circle one another roughly every 100 years. This rotation not only creates the wings of the butterfly and the two jets, it also allows the white dwarf to strip gas from its larger companion, which then forms a large disc of material around the stars, extending out as far as 15 times the orbit of Pluto!” (so it says in Astronomy Now Aug 2015)

Obviously a bipolar system is much more complex and I will definitely be delving into the science behind PN M 2-9 and booking more missions on Slooh to spread the wings of this butterfly.

Cosmic Reconciliation * Hemelruim Versoening

For the past decade or so I have been part of an astronomy group, the Orion Observation Group. Our main mission is to inspire others to look and appreciate the night sky.We were invited by the Afrikaanse Taalmonument (Afrikaans Language Monument) which is affiliated to the South African Department of Arts and Culture to host their popular summer season Stargazing Picnics. Once a month we set up our gear to give the public a chance to experience the night sky through our telescopes.Give and Take: Through the years my participation at the Taalmonument in Paarl, has made me much more aware of our country’s cultural diversity and so I aimed to contribute towards building a bridge between South African culture and Astronomy. I decided that a good way of achieving this would be to choose themes for our Stargazing evenings that would not only inspire budding astromers but budding artists, writers, poets and performers in any genre.

Our themes aren’t just chosen at random. First of all I scrutinize the date to see whether it coïncides with a specific astronomical event. I scour the library’s bookshelves and internet for star-related material suitable for specific dates like Valentine’s or New Year’s day. Finding new themes has been almost just as much fun as stargazing. If I find inspiration in the title of a book, in song lyrics, poetry or art, I contact the author. Most are very appreciative and give me their blessing. Some just ignore me and then I have to resume my search.So far no-one has been rude! Afrikaans is a colourful language and lends itself well to slight twisting and tweeking of the original.By now I have a file of themes with lots of memories of every Stargazing Picnic at the Taalmonument.

Initially I had something completely different lined up for 16 Dec 2017 when it dawned on me that this was a very special South African holiday: the Day of Reconciliation/Versoeningsdag. Back to the drawing board.

Hemelruim/Constellations sort of jumped off the computer screen and into my lap. When I read the synopsis I knew I had found the most perfect theme. The play “Constellations” by Nick Payne was adapted by well-known South African director, Nico Scheepers. The Afrikaans text was a triumph and “Hemelruim” staged sold-out performances at Aardklop, the KKNK and Fugard Theatre.

Reviews read: Hemelruim was an amazing theatre experience on a galactic scale
It’s about one relationship,infinite possibilities,free will and friendship; it’s also about quantum multiverse theory, love, and honey

Nico Scheepers revealed: I tried to make the characters as real as possible as people, whichever universe they’re in, because I think it is a core soul that echoes throughout all these parallel universes, with intent and choice painted over that

The theme for the Stargazing Picnic at the Taal Monument on 16 December 2017 will be:
Hemelruim Versoening/ Cosmic Reconciliation

With this I hope I can inspired more South Africans to reconcile and bring parallel universes together and most of all to inspire others to look at the stars.

Thanks to Nico Scheepers for this wonderful inspiration.