M57 The Ring Nebula is a showpiece planetary nebula located in constellation of Lyra. It is probably the most well-known, studied and photographed object of its kind and a perennial favourite with amateur astronomers. It is relatively bright at mag. +8.8 and easy to locate; about 40% along an imaginary line connecting Sheliak (β Lyr - mag. +3.5) to Sulafat (γ Lyr - mag. +3.2). For Northern Hemisphere observers the Ring Nebula is high in the sky during summer months. From southern latitudes it appears much lower down.
M57 is a difficult 10x50 binocular object appearing at best as a faint out of focus star. It is certainly much easier to locate when using larger 20x80 binoculars. Small telescopes fair better. A 100mm (4-inch) telescope reveals M57 as a small grey puffed out slightly elliptical shaped patch of light, but noticing the ring shape with it centre hole is challenging even when using averted vision. When viewed through a 200mm (8-inch) telescope, the shape is much clearer with finer detail also visible.
Very large amateur scopes show more intricate detail but the 15th magnitude central star, at the heart of the Ring Nebula, is difficult to spot. However, it's easy to image.
The Ring Nebula was discovered by Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in January 1779.
M57 Data Table
|Object Type||Planetary Nebula|
|RA (J2000)||18h 53m 35s|
|DEC (J2000)||33d 01m 43s|
|Apparent Size (arc mins)||1.4 x 1.0|