New data taken by schools will help us better understand dust in galaxies.
Edge-on spiral galaxies like IC 2531 are used by astronomers to study a lot of interesting properties as they oﬀer us the best opportunity to determine the radial and vertical structure of the various galaxy components. The dark black bands, revealing lanes of dust obscuring the light coming from stars, allow us to understand the distribution of both the dust and stellar content. Edge-ons therefore provide an important contribution to our knowledge of the dust structure.
Because we lacked optical images of IC 2531, I proposed this galaxy as an observing target for the Faulkes Telescope Project, which provides telescope access to schools for education and outreach purposes. Our target was observed with Faulkes Telescope South by numerous school teachers and their students over the course of one month. They obtained many optical (B, V and R band) images each with typical exposure times of ~200 seconds. Then, I cleaned and combined all these individual observations to produce the final colour image below. Gert De Geyter, a colleague at the UGent Astronomical Observatory, has already begun using the data to model the stellar and dust distributions (via oligochromatic radiative transfer fitting).
See the full size version by clicking the image.
Image credit: T. M. Hughes (UGent) & F. Lewis (LCOGTN).