How to Observe the Veil Nebula
The Veil nebula is the visible part of the Cygnus Loop, a supernova remnant from a star that exploded between 5000 and 8000 years ago. The nebula is quite large, covering an area over thirty times larger than the full moon. It is also relatively bright; however, since the light is spread out over such a wide area, it makes it difficult to spot.
Gather your equipment.You will need:
- A telescope or binoculars. The nebula is too dim to be seen with the naked eye, except under the most exceptional of circumstances.
- An OIII telescope filter: optional, but recommended. Most of the light from the nebula is emitted by doubly ionised oxygen, or OIII. This filter will isolate that light and make the nebula stand out. You may be able to get filters for binoculars, but if you can't, just get two telescope filters and stick them over the lenses.
- A dark site: optional, but highly recommended. Less light pollution will make the nebula easier to find.
Start by locating the Summer Triangle.This is a relatively prominent asterism, or star pattern, that appears in the sky in summer and autumn. It is formed from the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila. If you look in the middle of the triangle, you should notice a dimmer star, called Albireo.
Focus on Deneb and Albireo.These form the edges of the Cygnus constellation. Use them to locate the rest of the stars in the constellation. If you are having trouble finding Zeta Cygni, try using a small pair of binoculars.
- Fun factoid: Cygnus X-1, an object generally accepted as being a black hole, is located near Eta Cygni.
Trace one line from Albireo to Zeta Cygni, then trace a second from Deneb down through Epsilon Cygni.NGC 6960, part of the Veil Nebula, is at the junction. Focus on this point with your telescope.
Move around to focus on parts of the Nebula.The Veil Nebula is so extensive that all the parts have different names. Try finding the following:
- The Western Veil Nebula, NGC 6960. This is the part that the instructions lead you to focus on.
- Pickering's Triangle. A triangular shaped patch of gas, located north of NGC 6960.
- NGC 6979 and NGC 6974: two small knots of gas, east of Pickering's Triangle.
- The Eastern Veil Nebula: made of three parts. NGC 6992 is east of NGC 6974. NGC 6995 is south of NGC 6992, and IC 1340 is south again.
Video: Moving filaments of the Veil Nebula
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