The Dumbbell Nebula or M27 is a showpiece object that's a popular visual and imaging target for amateur astronomers. It's arguably the finest planetary nebula in the night sky and was the first of its type to be discovered. The name derives from its resemblance to a dumbbell shape, but it has also been compared to an apple core and an hourglass figure. With a mag. of +7.4, M27 is the second brightest planetary nebula in the sky. Only the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) in Aquarius is brighter. However, the Dumbbell Nebula has a higher surface brightness and therefore the easier of the two targets to spot.

M27 The Dumbbell Nebula (credit:- ESO)

Finder Chart for M27 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M27 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

M27 is found in the constellation of Vulpecula. It's visible in binoculars, appearing as a small oblong shaped patch of light. With 15x70 models it appears much larger and brighter with a distinct central section surrounded by fainter outer regions. An 80mm (3.1-inch) telescope will show the famous hourglass shape, especially when using averted vision. With larger telescopes, M27 displays more intricate surface details. It's a wonderful sight when viewed through 200mm (8-inch) scopes and as with many objects of this type a nebula filter often enhances the view.

M27 was discovered by Charles Messier on July 12, 1764. It's located 1,360 light-years from Earth and has an apparent diameter of 8.0 x 5.6 arc minutes.

M27 Data Table

Messier27
NGC6853
NameDumbbell Nebula
Object TypePlanetary Nebula
ConstellationVulpecula
Distance (light-years)1,360
Apparent Mag.+7.4
RA (J2000)19h 59m 36s
DEC (J2000)+22d 43m 17s
Apparent Size (arc mins)8.0 x 5.6
Radius (light-years)1.44

Sky Highlights - February 2017

Comets
Comet Encke (2P/Encke) now visible in the western sky during evening twilight
Now is the last good chance to see comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova before it dramatically fades

Conjunction
Mars passes less than 1 degree north of Uranus on February 27th

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for February 2017

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
Southwest:- Venus (mag. -4.8), Mars (mag. +1.1 to +1.3), Uranus (mag. +5.9)
Midnight
East:- Jupiter (mag. -2.1 to -2.3)
Morning
South:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.6)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Venus, Mars, Uranus
Midnight
East:- Jupiter
Morning
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn, Mercury (mag. -0.2 - first half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Messier 45 - M45 - The Pleiades (Open Cluster)
The Hyades - Open Cluster
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)
Messier 35 - M35 - Open Cluster
Messier 42 - M42 - The Great Orion Nebula (Emission/Reflection)

Small telescopes:-
Messier 36 - M36 - Open Cluster
Messier 37 - M37 - Open Cluster
Messier 38 - M38 - Open Cluster

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