May 13, 2019



How You Can See Orion, Eagle and Other Nebulae in the Sky


Have you seen nebula in the sky any time before? If not, be ready to explore some of them with me!

If you are wondering why nebulas are such grand objects to view in the sky, then you must read this blog!

Do you know that stars born not only from nebulas but finally end up also into nebulas when they die?

In perfect peace, nebulas are dense clusters of gas and dust, but when unsettled by gravitational force or otherwise, the part of it turns into a star. In this way, the nebula is a star factory continuously churning out tens of thousands of stars.

These stars emit high levels of energy and radiations turning the rest of the nebula pinkish red. That is why nebula looks so colorful and impressive when seen through the telescope.


But where do nebulas exist in the sky?

They exist in the space between the stars also known as interstellar space.

The Orion nebula is the quickest and easiest one to locate in the sky. It is as far as almost 1300 light-years from our planet. It is called so because it is located in the Orion constellation.

The Orion Nebula is also known as Messier 42, NGC 1976 or M42. By a rough estimate, the Orion nebula spans across 100 light years or so!

It is perhaps the nearest star-forming area from our solar system. The Orion Nebula falls in the category of the diffuse nebula as it emits own light or reflects light from the surrounding stars.

You can also see the Orion nebula with naked eyes. For the first time, its image was captured in 1880 by William Huggins, an American amateur astronomer.


But how would you locate it?

In the months of August and September, you can view the Orion Constellation in the east at least one-half to two hours before dawn.

Just locate the bright star Betelgeuse at the top left side of the Constellation. When you draw a line connecting it with the star located most easterly in Orion’s Belt and extend it further, you will arrive at the Orion Nebula.

Our eyes cannot detect colors when objects appear dim, and that is why powerful telescopes are needed to see the Orion nebula in multicolor.

For a majestic view of the Orion Nebula, use a telescope with a minimum 4-inch aperture. The interesting thing is that every year when you see you will have a different view of it because it gives birth to new stars every year along with its changing dynamics!

If you could notice the orange or crimson color in the nebula, then it is because of hydrogen and the green color is due to oxygen in the Orion nebula.

Scientists consider the Orion nebula as the nursery of stars – a perfect laboratory to explore how stars formation takes place because it is closest from our Earth.


The Eagle Nebula

The Eagle Nebula is a famous star-forming nebula and worth observing in the clear sky. It is also known as Messier 16 or M16 in the scientific world of astronomers. The nebula presents a majestic sight with its three Pillars of Creation that was first photographed by Hubble in 1995.

The nebula is named so because it resembles an Eagle in its shape.

The Eagle Nebula is located almost 7,000 light years from Earth. The nebula is famous for its pillar structure stretching almost 70 light years.


Where can you locate the Eagle Nebula?

You need to see for this Nebula in the constellation Scutum. First, find out the star Gamma Scuti in this constellation. It is a white giant with an apparent magnitude of 4.70. Moving 2-3 degrees west of it, you will have a spectacular view of the Eagle Nebula.

A 4-inch telescope can provide you fairly a good view of the Eagle Nebula. You may want to view the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula and for that; you need to choose a 12-inch scope for its majestic view.


The Helix Nebula

Another nearby Nebula, relatively, is the Helix Nebula; it is located only 700 light years from Earth. It is called so because it has a coil-like structure.

Some astronomers refer the Helix as the “Eye of God.”

As such, it is a planetary nebula in our Milky Way.

By the way, what do you know about the planetary nebula?

The planetary nebula is a cluster of gas emitted by a medium-sized dying star. When a star is in the process of dying, then a planetary nebula begins forming.

As such, it has nothing to do with the planets of a dying star!

Do you know that our Sun will also turn into a planetary nebula after almost five billion years or so?

The Helix Nebula can be seen in the constellation Aquarius. While it spans across almost six light years in size, it never appears high in the sky. Due to low surface brightness, the Helix nebula remains largely elusive if the sky is not sufficiently clear or free of light pollution.

This means you need to track the Helix quite carefully! Also, you need to spot the Helix in the correct region of the sky.

When viewed with a binocular, the Helix Nebula appears like a full-moon object but almost half of the size of the moon in the sky!

When viewed with a 3″ telescope, you will be able to notice the ring-like structure. It can be observed much higher in the sky at southern latitudes, but from the northern sky, it can be seen 12-16 degrees above the horizon.

If you want to view the central portion of the Helix, then you need to use 8” reflector with a magnifying power of nearly 80-90x. For improved color vision, you can also use a UHC filter for viewing this nebula.

The Helix Nebula can be located in the sky with the help of Fomalhaut Star. The Helix lies at 10-14 degrees northwest of Fomalhaut, which is the brightest star in that region of the sky. Otherwise, the region is full of only faint stars.

Fomalhaut is also closer to Earth at the distance of only 25 light-years away.


Where can you see Fomalhaut in the sky?

From the Southern Hemisphere, it is fairly easy to see Fomalhaut as it is conspicuous by its luminosity without any other bright star around. While from the Northern Hemisphere it lies low, still it can be viewed in the months of October through December with ease!

There are many other fascinating nebulas such as Dragon Nebula, Three-ring Nebula, the Cat’s Nebula and many more.

I would certainly like to do some interesting chitchat on other magnificent nebulas of our universe some other day!