Supernova Remnants and Planetary Nebula can be a disappointment for most casual observers. It’s a lot more difficult to wow people with the faint glow of a cloud like object than it is to show the bright and detailed craters of the Moon or the rings of Saturn. For me, viewing these “faint fuzzies” is more about the challenge of finding them and the story they tell. What is the story behind the creation of the Veil Nebula? How far do I star hop to find M27, the Dumbbell Nebula? On this night, I turned my attention to these types of objects and enjoyed the sights and stories they provided.
The Eastern Veil Nebula
This ghostly figure is all that remains of a dead star’s super nova. Some 5 to 8 thousand years ago the dying star exploded and flung its gasses into the far reaches of space. The stretched out Veil Nebula is what we see of those remnants, today. Star hoping from Deneb down to Gienah, I found the Eastern portion of the Veil Nebula. It’s ghostly appearance is easy to miss unless you knew what you are looking for. The large 2 degrees of view provided by my 2in. 38mm Q70 Orion Eyepiece provided enough room to fit all of this portion of the nebula in sight. Having an O-III filter for my eyepiece would have greatly helped with this particular Nebula because of the type of light waves it sends out.
It’s easy to understand why this planetary nebula in the Vulpecula Constellation was the first of its kind to be discovered. Scanning the skies and coming upon it on purpose or accidentally, leaves little doubt that this is something unique. When certain sized stars near the end of their life they eject out layers of gases which create the amazing views of a planetary nebula. With a magnitude of 7.5, it is easily visible and displays a slight grayish blue hue.
Think about this next time you view these or other deep sky objects. The distance from Earth to the Dumbbell Nebula is roughly 1,360 light years. Meaning that, when the light we see today through our telescopes left the Dumbbell Nebula it was the year 651 on Earth. Looking at these distant objects turns a telescope into a time machine peering back in time over thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of years. While deep sky objects may not always “wow” like the planets, the journey to find them and stories they tell make them a sight to be hold.
Starlog: June 30, 2011 and July 1, 2011