Jean Dean is a retired oceanographer, but these days you’re more likely to see her glued to her telescope in the back garden of her Guernsey residence. Dean, 60, is an amateur astronomer. She’s also the winner of a NASA photography prize after capturing an extraordinary image of the Rosette Nebula during five nights of sitting out under the stars.
The Rosette Nebula, sometimes called a “Cosmic Rose,” is a cloud of dust and gas that houses 10,000 stars that are collectively as bright and powerful as the sun. The center of the Nebula is where bright, white young stars grow while areas of warm gas around them appear red. Lilac tones designate dust particles. The NASA-recognized, prize-winning astrophotographer lives in Vazon, Guernsey, with her 70-year-old husband, Peter, a retired lecturer. Dean is also a member of La Societe Guernesiaise Astronomy Section (the Guernsey Astronomy Society), and has been fascinated by astronomy for decades.
The Rosette Nebula in the constellation Monoceros. It is around 5,000 light years away and some 115 light years across….
“My interest in astronomy came from when I was a child,” Dean told the Guernsey Press. “We are very fortunate in Guernsey to have some really dark skies in certain areas. I’ve been doing it probably for about 10 years or more,” she continued, explaining her background in astrophotography. “I used to take [photos] with film a long time ago. That was much more difficult, it was very hit and miss. Digital cameras are much more sensitive too,” she added. “The way this one came out was quite a surprise.”
“I’m very happy with it and I’m surprised at the response it’s had to be honest.”
She took this breath-taking image of nebula some 5,000 light-years away from her back garden
Dean spent five nights in her garden observing the Rosette Nebula star cluster, which is an astounding 5,000 light years away from Earth. It is located in the Monoceros region of the Milky Way. Dean submitted her incredible photograph, taken using 13 hours of total integrated exposure time, to NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” competition. Dean was gently badgered to do so by her friend and fellow astrophotographer Trevor Mahy, according to the Daily Mail, who recently passed away. She dedicates the photograph to his memory, but surprisingly never thought anything would come of her submission.
Hopeful of clearish skies tonight. My refractor has had some tilt issues, I discovered 3 grub screws that were…
The amateur astrophotographer was astounded when she heard that she had won April 12, 2019’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day.”
“As an amateur, to have an image picked for an APOD is a great honor and it was a marvelous surprise,” Dean shared with pride. Run by NASA and Michigan Technological University since 1995, APOD updates daily and showcases an array of beautiful, fascinating images from deep space, including descriptions from an astronomer. Dean’s image will join a database that can be accessed by schools, universities, and the general public.
“The image can be from any source such as a research observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, or an amateur astronomer,” Dean explained. “It is a tremendous educational tool […] People often think that the space between the stars is empty. In fact there are large, extremely dense clouds of material comprising gas such as hydrogen and interstellar dust.”
On NASA’s APOD website, authors explain Dean’s incredible photograph in layman’s terms. “The petals of this cosmic rose are actually a stellar nursery,” they write; the baby stars are “only” a few million years of age, and the Nebula’s central cavity is about 50 light years in diameter.
“These regions are called giant molecular clouds and are very important as they are the birthplace of new stars,” Dean clarified, “which leads to the creation of the solar systems with planets and moons and the possibility of life.” Dean encourages anybody and everybody to take a look and learn for themselves.
“We’re trying to encourage people to look up at the skies more,” she said.