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.
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.
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