NGC 7000 is a giant emission nebula in the constellation of Cygnus that spans 120 x 100 arc minutes of apparent sky. It's one of a number of low surface brightness nebulae surrounding first magnitude star, Deneb (α Cyg - mag. +1.25). Under dark skies this object can be spotted with the naked eye, appearing as a faint hazy patch of light although even the smallest amount of light pollution renders it invisible.
The integrated magnitude of NGC 7000 is probably about +4.5. However, this is misleading due its large size and some parts of the nebula shine no brighter than 12th magnitude. When photographed or imaged, NGC 7000 bears a striking resemblance to the North American continent, hence it's nickname "the North America Nebula".
NGC 7000 was discovered by William Herschel on October 24, 1786 and first photographed by Max Wolf on December 12, 1890. It is 1,600 light-years away and best seen from northern latitudes during the months of July, August and September.
The North America Nebula can be found 3 degrees east of Deneb. Magnitude +3.7 star, Xi Cygni (ξ Cyg), is positioned at its southeastern edge. Since very large, popular 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars often provide good views. A small 80mm (3.1-inch) refractor at low powers somewhat enhances the appearance, especially when a nebula filter is attached. Large reflectors easily show the full outline, although it spans several fields of view. For most observers, NGC 7000 appears grey although green tinges can sometimes be seen. The surrounding area of sky is a wonderfully rich part of the Milky Way and a delight to scan with binoculars and wide-field scopes.
Due west of NGC 7000, separated by a dark band of dust, is the even more elusive Pelican Nebula (IC 5067 / IC 5070). Measuring 60 x 50 arc minutes, this nebula is part of the same complex and faintly visible in large binoculars, although dark skies are required.
NGC 7000 Data Table
|Name||North American Nebula|
|Object Type||Emission Nebula|
|RA (J2000)||20h 59m|
|DEC (J2000)||+44d 20m|
|Apparent Size (arc mins)||120 x 100|