Weymouth Astronomy

Deep Space Objects - September 2020

The Ring Nebula - M57

M57 can be found by star hopping towards Vega (brightest of the 3 stars which make the Summer Triangle), look south of Vega and approx. halfway between Vega and Albireo there are 2 bright stars Sheliak and Sulafat. Between these stars M57 can be found and is best observed June through to September.

Through a small telescope the ring looks like a small disk which is bright but hazy in contrast to the bright pinpoint stars surrounding it. By using averted vision you may be able to see it as what can best be described as a tiny smoke ring. Larger telescopes may be able to resolve irregular light variations from the ring.

This nebula is a cold cloud of gas (primarily hydrogen and helium) and is expanding away from a small hot central star which would require a large telescope (not less than 12" aperture) to sucessfully resolve. It is this star which provides the energy to make gas cloud glow.

The Pleiades - M45

M45 - The Pleiades This open cluster is best viewed from October through to March. This collection of stars also known as the 'Seven Sisters' and can be found by locating Orion high above the southern horizon. To the right is a bright orange-red star (Aldebaran - eye of Taurus), use this star as a stepping stone to the star cluster. Six stars of this cluster are easily visible to the naked eye but as many as 18 can be seen without any optical equipment if the skies are very dark and away from light pollution. In many ways this cluster is best viewed with Binoculars or the finderscope.

M81 and M82 Galaxies

M81 - Image courtesy of Rob Hodgkinson Within the constellation of Ursa Major lies this pair of galaxies. M81 (NGC3031, Bode's Galaxy) is a large magnitude 7 galaxy which has a bright core and is therefore easily observed with small instruments. Through a telescope M81 has an obvious oval shape whereas M82 (NGC 3034), also known as the Cigar Galaxy is thin and pencil shaped. On very dark and clear nights it may be possible when viewing through a larger telescope to observe a dark lane of dust across M82.

M82 - Image courtesy of Rob Hodgkinson M81 is spiral galaxy where larger telescopes may review spiral arms extending from the core. M82 is an irregular galaxy with no defined sprial arms but is full of irregular dust clouds and collections of stars. M82 is the smaller of the two but still contains tens of billions of stars. Both of these galaxies are best seen from January through to August.