NGC 7009, also known as the Saturn Nebula, is a famous planetary nebula in the constellation Aquarius. It has an apparent magnitude of +8.3 and therefore bright enough to be spotted with binoculars. Because of its high surface brightness, it's relatively easy to find and observe with virtually any type of telescope. Visually the planetary appears small and compact but when seen through larger scopes it somewhat resembles the planet Saturn, hence the nickname "Saturn Nebula". The 3rd Earl of Rosse, William Parsons, came up with the name in 1840.

The planetary is best seen during the months of July, August and September.

NGC 7009 (credit:-  NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

Finder Chart for NGC 7009 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for NGC 7009 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

The Saturn Nebula lies in the western corner of Aquarius, just over a degree west of Nu Aqr (ν Aqr - mag. +4.5). The curious asterism M73 is 2 degrees southwest of the Saturn Nebula, with 9th magnitude globular cluster M72 a further 1.5 degrees west of M73.

Since it spans less than an arc minute in diameter, the planetary appears as a faint "star" through binoculars. An 80mm (3.1-inch) scope reveals a small blue-green ellipse, surrounding a mag. +11.5 central star. The brighter central portion of the nebula, which can be seen through small scopes, measures 25 x 17 arc seconds. Under good conditions, a 250mm (10-inch) scope will show the ansae, which are the projecting arms of nebulosity extending out from either side of the disk. They span 41 arc seconds. These faint extensions of nebulosity are visually tricky to observe and a magnification of 250x is recommended. Like other planetary nebulae, NGC 7009 responds well to an Olll filter.

The Saturn Nebula is a beautiful complex planetary nebula. It's a superb object that's often high on the observing lists of backyard astronomers and is number 55 in the Caldwell catalogue.

NGC 7009 Data Table

NameSaturn Nebula
Object TypePlanetary Nebula
Distance (light-years)2,000 -> 4,000
Apparent Mag.+8.3
RA (J2000)21h 04m 11s
DEC (J2000)-11d 21m 49s
Apparent Size (arc secs)41 x 35
Radius (light-years)0.20 -> 0.40
Notable FeaturesReasonably bright central star at mag. +11.5

Sky Highlights - September 2017

Neptune reaches opposition on September 5th

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for September

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Jupiter (mag. -1.7)
Southwest:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)
East:- Neptune (mag. +7.8)
South:- Neptune
East:- Uranus (mag. +5.7)
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
West:- Jupiter
Northwest:- Saturn
East:- Neptune
West:- Saturn
North:- Neptune
Northeast:- Uranus
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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