What’s New


See our twitter feed for timely information:  http://twitter.com/uisobservatory

Recent Publications

For a list of recent publications by the UIS observatory please see Dr. Martin’s publication page:


Nearby Galaxy M33

This is a composite image of the galaxy M33 in the constellation Triangulum.  It is a collection of 40 billion stars about 3 million light years away.  M33 is one of three large galaxies in our local group (including also the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milkway Galaxy).  The Barber Research Observatory is monitoring a number of massive stars in M33 as part of a project sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSP) under grant number 1108890.

The image is a composite of nine separate images taken in three different filters (Blue = Johnson B, Green = Johnson V, Red = Cousins R).  Each image was a ten minute exposure with the 20-inch telescope and the U42 CCD camera.

Nearby galaxy M33
A mosaic of images covering the nearby galaxy M33.

New Look For All UIS Web Pages

The new format of the web page is outside our control.  That is set by the office of web services.

If you have comments or questions about the “new look” for the UIS web pages please register them here:


Perseid Meteor Star Party August 11/12

The University of Illinois Springfield Astronomy-Physics Program is co-hosting a viewing of the Perseid Meteor shower before dawn on Monday, August 12.  Read more information

Supernova 2013df in NGC 4414

The spiral galaxy to the left of center in this picture is NGC 4414.  It is about 62 million lightyears away from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices.  On June 8th astronomers in Italy noted a new bright star in the galaxy just to the left of the center in this image.  A spectrum obtained by the Keck II telescope in Hawaii two days later confirmed this was a star many times the mass of the Sun that had exploded as a supernova.  The spectrum is a little odd since it has no emission lines that are typical of a supernova of this type.  UIS Barber Observatory is following this supernova as part of our ongoing NSF project to study supernova impostors.

The images combined to make this picture were taken in three filters:  B (light you see as blue), V (light you see as green), and R (light you see as red).  The separate images were combined to create this color picture.



More information about the supernova impostor project at UIS


 The Wild Duck Cluster (M11)

This open star cluster in the Milky Way is well known to amateur astronomers as a particularly rich and colorful cluster.  The colors reveal the temperatures of the stars, with blue stars being hotter and red stars being cooler.  Below is an image produced from a series of exposures taken by the 20-inch telescope at the UIS Barber Observatory on June 11, 2013.   This cluster contains about 2900 stars and has an estimated age of 220 million years (very young when we consider our own Sun is at least 4 billion years old).  The cluster is in the constellation Scutum at a distance of 6200 lightyears from Earth.

Wild Duck Cluster Messier 11 (M11)

The Eagle Nebula (M16)

The cloudy weather lately has been bad news for Friday Night Star Parties but it has given us some time to reduce a back-log of pretty pictures the UIS Barber Observatory took over the summer. Below is an image of the Eagle Nebula (M16) in the constellation Serpens. The nebula gets its name from the dark silhouette at the center of the nebula that appears like an eagle flying from the lower left to upper right in this picture. The nebula itself is a cloud of gas about 7000 light-years from Earth that has been lit up by young massive stars forming in it. We picked this as a target because it covers a relatively wide field of view that shows off the capabilities of our CCD camera.
The Eagle Nebula (M16)

The colors in the picture are not “true” colors. A color image like this is made by taking three black and white images through different color filters and assigning each image the color of red, green, or blue. In this case we combined three 10 minute exposures in the V-band, R-band, and I-band filters. The combination mimics a color picture. The red and green channels are filters that roughly correspond to colors your eyes see as red and green. But the blue channel in this image is from the infrared I-filter image. We combined them this way because this was the most visually pleasing combination.
The red and blue streaks below some of the stars are because they were over exposed in the R and I filter images.

Supernova Impostors

The UIS Barber Observatory has taken advantage of the clear weather patterns and our new wide-field U42 camera to follow the brightness variations of suspected supernnova impostors in distant galaxies. The image below is of an unusual supernova in the galaxy NGC 6796 called SN 2012bv. The color picture was made by assigning false colors to three separate images taken on June 25th in the V (light you see as green), R (light you see as red), and I (infrared light just beyond the range of your vision). The supernova is the slightly bluish “star” clearly visible in the bottom part of the fuzzy galaxy appearing as a vertical smear in the center of the picture. The galaxy NGC 6796 is about 98 million light years away from us, meaning that the light from this supernova has taken over 98 million years to reach us.

More information about the supernova impostor project at UIS

Supernovat 2012bv in NGC 6796

Pictures of the Moon

On May 30 we took a series of pictures of the Moon with our wide-field CCD camera on our 20-inch telescope. Below is the image we produced.

Mosaic of the Moon taken with the Barber Observatory 20-inch Telescope

The field of view on the camera is roughly a quarter degree across so it took only five frames to cover the first quarter Moon. This camera is being used primarily to monitor the brightness of supernova impostors in distant galaxies as part of a project sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Transit of Venus Star Party on June 5, 2012

We will be hosting a special day-time star party at Southwind Park from 5pm to sunset in Springfield, IL to view the rare Transit of Venus event on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.  Read more information

First Light on New CCD Camera

(March 2012)

Galaxy M81 with the new UIS CCD Camera

The image of the galaxy M81 above is the “first-light” image taken by the new U42 CCD camera at the UIS Barber Observatory on March 14, 2012. The new camera was purchased to image supernova impostors in distant galaxies as part of a project sponsored by National Science Foundation and private donors. The field of view on the camera is exceptionally large, covering a patch of sky nearly as big across as the full moon.

Prof John Martin Named University Scholar

(October 2011)

Assistant Professor of Astronomy-Physics John Martin has been named the 2011 University Scholar for the University of Illinois Springfield. The University Scholar program honors the top scholars at the University of Illinois and is the top award for scholarship on the Springfield Campus.

Prof John Martin Earns Grant From National Science Foundation

(July 2011)

On July 1 the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that a collaboration including UIS Assistant Professor John Martin earned a three-year grant for their proposal entitiled “On the Road to the Supernova: LBVs, Hypergiants, and SN Impostors.” The project will continue and expand on Martin’s collarboration with Kris Davison and Roberta Humphreys (both at the University of Minnesota) to study the end stages and instabilities in the most massive stars in the universe.

The $62,000 grant includes money to upgrade the capabilities of the 16-inch telescope at Henry Barber Research Observatory to observe “supernova imposter.” A supernova imposter is an an eruption equal in magnitude to the visual brightness of a supernova that many of the most massiv stars have atleast once on their way to becoming a supernova. The great eruption of Eta Carinae in the 1850’s is the prototype for these types of events. More recently supernova searchs have been discovering similar events in other galaxies. The physics and exact nature of these violent events are not well understood.

Read more about the grant given to Professor Martin

Prof John Martin’s Article in June 2011 issue of Gemini Focus magazine

(June 2011)

The June 2011 issue of Gemini Focus magazine contains an article written by UIS Assistant Professor John Martin about his use of an infrared camera on the Gemini-South telescope to image the interior of the nebula cocooning the star Eta Carinae. Read more about it at the Gemini Focus website