Science has played a major role throughout my life. I have a PhD in physics (Radio Astronomy, at Cambridge University, UK) and have followed an active research career in experimental and theoretical physics at the UK’s Centre for Fusion Energy Research at Culham Laboratory, and at the Joint European Torus, a large fusion reactor. Realising the potential of controlled Fusion Energy is one of the truly vital challenges for us on this planet, because it offers the possibility of generating huge amounts of power, with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions. 

On the astronomy front, all the pictures on this site were taken by me, at my home astronomy observatory, where, in the City of Oxford, I have to contend with lots of light pollution. I have found ways of revealing the images of faint nebulae and galaxies in this difficult environment and have even been able to make an image of the core and powerful plasma jet of the galaxy (M87) in which there is a supermassive black hole. This black hole made headline news in 2019 as the first black hole ever to have been imaged by combining data from telescopes around the world. 


The Pacman Nebula (NGC 281) in Cassiopeia

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Photo copyright © Geoff Cottrell 2016

The Pacman Nebula was so named because of its resemblance to the video game character. But the nebula NGC 281 is an ionised interstellar gas cloud (HII region), actively forming stars, and lying 10,000 light years away in the Perseus arm of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. The false-colour image shows three emission lines – hydrogen (green), silicon-II (red), and oxygen-III (blue). The latter two elements were synthesised inside earlier generations of stars, spewed out into the interstellar medium, and are now being recycled into the next generation of stars. There is a multiple star system at the centre – the bright starlight helping to ionise the gas and causing it to glow. Also visible are small, dark ‘Bok globules’, which are concentrations of dusty gas, cocooning newly forming stars in this stellar nursery.

Image details

Taken between 31st October and 2nd November 2016, 3.5 hours total exposure with a 6 inch (150 mm, f/6.25) triplet apochromatic refractor and a CCD camera with 3 narrowband filters tuned to H-alpha (shown as Green), SII (Blue), and OIII (Red) emission lines.

The Andromeda spiral galaxy – our closest big  galaxy neighbour

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Photo copyright © Geoff Cottrell 2016

A one-hour exposure of the Andromeda galaxy M31 with its two dwarf companion galaxies, middle left and lower right, juxtaposed with a 1/100 second exposure of the Moon, to scale. M31 is 2.5 million light years away, heading in our direction (towards the Milky Way) at a speed of 400 million km per hour, and will merge with our Galaxy in about 4 billion years.

Image details

For these images, I used a 6 inch (150 mm, f/6.25) triplet apochromatic refractor and a CCD camera.

The Soul Nebula (IC1848) in Cassiopeia

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Photo copyright © Geoff Cottrell 2016

The Soul Nebula is part of a giant star-forming gas cloud in the Milky Way. The area covered spans at least four full-Moons and, like the Orion nebula, is a highly active star forming region.  Fierce radiation and particle winds from the newly forming stars, seen clustered and clumped inside the nebula, is blasting a vast cavity in the cloud, sculpting fantastic shapes, and compressing the gas in the outer parts. This in turn is triggering a new wave of star formation in the periphery.

Image details

Taken between 7th and 28th November 2016, 4 hours total exposure with a 6 inch (150 mm, f/6.25) triplet apochromatic refractor and a CCD camera with 3 narrowband filters tuned to H-alpha (shown as Green), SII (Blue), and OIII (Red) emission lines.