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 The Ring Nebula (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

Finder Chart for M57 (also shown M29 and M56)

Finder Chart for M57 (also shown M29 and M56) - pdf format

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

NameRing Nebula
Object TypePlanetary Nebula
Distance (kly)2.3
Apparent Mag.8.8
RA (J2000)18h 53m 35s
DEC (J2000)33d 01m 43s
Apparent Size (arc mins)1.4 x 1.0
Radius (light-years)0.5

Sky Highlights - March 2017

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak now visible with binoculars as it heads towards perihelion

Mercury heading towards greatest elongation east

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for March 2017

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (mag. -4.8 to -4.1 - first half of month), Mars (mag. +1.3 to +1.5), Uranus (mag. +5.9), Mercury (mag. -1.5 to -0.4 - second half of month)
Southeast:- Jupiter (mag. -2.3 to -2.5)
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (first half of month), Mars, Uranus
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn
West:- Jupiter
Northeast:- Saturn
East:- Neptune (mag. +8.0 - second half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Melotte 111 - Mel 111 - The Coma Star Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)

Messier 67 - M67 - Open Cluster
Messier 51 - M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 97 - M97 - The Owl Nebula (Planetary Nebula)
Messier 101 - M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 65 – M65 – Spiral Galaxy
Messier 66 - M66 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
Messier 95 - M95 - Barred Spiral Galaxy
Messier 96 - M96 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4244 - Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4565 - Needle Galaxy - Spiral Galaxy

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