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 - September 2017

Opposition
Neptune reaches opposition on September 5th

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for September

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Jupiter (mag. -1.7)
Southwest:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)
East:- Neptune (mag. +7.8)
Midnight
South:- Neptune
East:- Uranus (mag. +5.7)
Morning
West:- Neptune
South:- Uranus
East:- Venus (mag. -3.9), Mars (mag. +1.8) (from second week), Mercury (mag. +0.5 to -1.3) (from second week)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Jupiter
Northwest:- Saturn
East:- Neptune
Midnight
West:- Saturn
North:- Neptune
Northeast:- Uranus
Morning
West:- Neptune
Northwest:- Uranus
Northeast:- Venus
East:- Mars (end of month)

Deep Sky

Small telescopes:-
Messier 13 - M13 - Great Hercules Globular Cluster
Messier 92 - M92 - Globular Cluster
Messier 11 - M11 - The Wild Duck Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 7 - M7 - The Ptolemy Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 6 - M6 - The Butterfly Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 4 - M4 - Globular Cluster
Messier 8 - M8 - Lagoon Nebula (Emission Nebula)
Messier 16 - M16 - Eagle Nebula (Emission Nebula with Open Cluster)
Messier 20 - M20 - Trifid Nebula (Emission and Reflection Nebula)

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