Sky Object of the Month – September 2016
(Courtesy LVAS Observer’s Challenge*)
NGC 7009 “Saturn Nebula” –Planetary Nebula in Aquarius (Mag 8.0, Size 20”)
Discovered in 1782 by William Herschel, NGC 7009 (the “Saturn Nebula”) is located a little over one degree west of the 4.5 magnitude star nu (n) Aquarii and just a few degrees northeast of the Messier objects M73 (a four-star asterism) and M72 (a small globular cluster). It gets its nickname from a pair of thin extensions, or ansae, that stretch out to the sides of the main nebula, giving it the appearance (and apparent size) of the planet Saturn.
The Saturn Nebula is readily glimpsed in small-aperture scopes, appearing as a slightly oval object blue-green in color. The ansae require larger instruments. The challenge is to determine the smallest aperture needed to view them. Another challenge is to spot the central star which shines at magnitude 11.5, but which is masked by the surrounding nebulosity.
Images by Mario Motta MD