Today’s Astronomical Events – July 20th, 2015

Messier 27, the Dumbbell nebula, reaches its best visibility of the year tonight. Discovered in 1764 by Charles Messier, it’s the remains of a star that exploded more than 9,000 years ago and lies at a distance of about 1,300 light years away.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy object for beginners to find but using binoculars will certainly help as it can be spotted with a magnification as low as 8x.  It lies in the constellation of Vulpecula, the Fox, which, like the constellation Sagitta and the globular cluster M71 (see July 17th) can be found within the Summer Triangle of Deneb, Altair and Vega, just below the famous double star Albireo (see July 13th.)

It appears small, circular and very misty through binoculars but with a telescope at low power it begins to take on more shape. At first it might appear rectangular, but then it starts to look more like the image above and may even resemble the Batman logo. Using averted vision (looking at it indirectly, out of the corner of your eye) will help to bring out more detail.

(Click on the image to enlarge. Adapted from 2015: An Astronomical Year, available in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom.)

Map courtesy of Mobile Observatory. Photograph taken by the author using Slooh.



19:33 UT – Mercury appears 5.4° south of Pollux (Mercury: 99% illuminated, magnitude -1.9, diameter 5.1”. Gemini, not visible.)

The planetary nebula M27, the Dumbbell Nebula, culminates at midnight tonight. (Magnitude 7.5. Vulpecula, all night. See images above.)



Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are visible with the naked eye.

All times are in Universal Time (UTC). To convert the time to your timezone, click here.

2015 An Astronomical Year (Kindle Edition) 2016 An Astronomical Year Paperback Cover 2016 The Night Sky Sights The Astronomical Almanac 2015-2019

2015: An Astronomical Year

2016: An Astronomical Year 2016: The Night Sky Sights The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019) The Amateur Astronomer’s Notebook (Pocket Edition)

(Kindle & Paperback)

(Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback)


Amazon – US

Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US
Amazon – UK Amazon – UK Amazon – UK

Amazon – UK

Details of all available books across the world can be found here or by visiting the author’s page on Amazon. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at astronomywriter “at”


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