M57, the Ring Nebula, is a showpiece planetary nebula located in the constellation of Lyra. It's probably the most well-known, studied and photographed object of its kind and a perennial favourite with amateur astronomers. The nebula is relatively bright at magnitude +8.8 and easy to locate. It can be found about 40% the way along an imaginary line connecting stars, Sheliak (β Lyr - mag. +3.5) and Sulafat (γ Lyr - mag. +3.2). For Northern Hemisphere observers, it appears high in the sky during the warm summer months although from southern latitudes it appears much lower down.

M57 was discovered by Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in January 1779.

M57 The Ring Nebula (NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (credit:- STScI/AURA))

Finder Chart for M57 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M57 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

M57 is a difficult 10x50 binocular object, appearing at best as a faint out of focus star. It's certainly much easier to spot when using larger 20x80 models. Small telescopes fair better and a 100mm (4-inch) scope reveals a small grey puffed out, slightly elliptical patch of light. However, seeing the ring shape with it central hole is challenging even when using averted vision. When viewed through a 200mm (8-inch) telescope, the shape is much clearer with finer details also visible.

Very large amateur scopes show more intricate details, but the 15th magnitude central star at the heart of the Ring Nebula is difficult to spot. However, it's much easier to image.

M57 Data Table

Messier57
NGC6720
NameRing Nebula
Object TypePlanetary Nebula
ConstellationLyra
Distance (light-years)2,300
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 - May 2017

Mercury
Mercury reaches greatest elongation west on May 17, 2017

Meteor Shower
Eta Aquariids meteor shower peaks on May 5th and 6th, 2017

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for May 2017

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Mars (mag. +1.6)
South:- Jupiter (mag. -2.4)
Midnight
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.2)
Morning
South:- Saturn
East:- Venus (mag. -4.7)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Mars
North:- Jupiter
Midnight
Northwest:- Jupiter
North:- Saturn
Morning
Northwest:- Saturn
East:- Venus, Mercury (mag. +2.5 to -0.3), Neptune (mag. +7.9)

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

Telescopes:-
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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