Wednesday, November 9, 2016

M57, Planetary Nebula in Lyra

A star that exploded some time after the majestic Egyptian pyramids were made left a magnificent shell of ionized gas larger than the orbit of the Trans-Neptunian objects in our own solar system. That orbit is where some unknown and known dwarf planets like the old pal Pluto, survive far away from the sun.

A telescope is a time-machine that allows the observer to look at the past of the universe. The image of the M57 I saw last October was actually its light that started a long journey to earth more than 2000 years ago.

Finding the Ring Nebula is pretty simple and it is definitely worth star hopping from either one of the two stars Sheliak (β Lyrae) or Sulafat (γ Lyrae) in toward the other. In binoculars, both of these stars fit in the FOV and the Ring Nebula is almost in the middle of them; perhaps leaning a little towards Sheliak. Unfortunately, the ring does not show its real shape in binoculars, but instead it looks like another stellar object, similar in brightness to the other stars around.

Click in the image to enhance

One can know which one is the Planetary Nebula (PN) by following a star chart. Once there, averted vision reveals a puffy quasi-stellar object slightly different than the neighbor stars. But still one can’t see the hole in the middle, the ring demands more magnification to show up.

Here is the view with my 6” SCT and 100x, in my opinion, the best view of the nebula with my scope. I still could not see the planetary nebula nucleus (PNN) but I definitely saw the shell around it. It looked like a smoky and blurry oblate donut with some senses of green-yellowish color in the body and red in the edges. Somehow, every time I have looked at this object with my telescope I wanted to refocus because its blurriness gave me the feeling that the scope wasn’t perfectly in focus, but by looking at the stars around I could see that the scope was perfectly focused because the stars around were pinpoints of light.

If there are big reasons to have a telescope, definitely M57 is one of them. It is certainly one of the best views in the sky and as I said before, middle-high magnification makes it possible.

For those telescope owners, I hope they can enjoy this view as much as I have enjoyed.

Clear skies,


Edited by Jennifer Steinberg (editor in chief)



  1. Excelente objeto y descripción Luis, como siempre un gusto pasar por tu blog .

    Saludos desde Argentina .

  2. Gracias Rodrigo. La verdad que me has inspirado con muchos de tus dibujos!