How to find all the Clusters in the Summer Triangle (M29, M56 and M71)

In this article we are going to discuss all three clusters in the summer triangle M29, M56 and M71 and how to find them. As mentioned in our Dumbbell Nebula article there are three stars and make up the Summer Triangle Deneb, Altair and Vega.

The Summer Triangle happens to consist of some of the brightest stars in the summer skies and in the northern hemisphere, which makes it easy to locate. These will be located directly overhead during summer.

How to find M29?

Click to enlarge M29 star chart

To start off with we will locate the open cluster M29, which is the easier of the clusters in the Summer Triangle to locate. To start with find the bright star Deneb, in the Cygnus constellation. This will show you what part of the Summer Triangle you need to look at then locate the Northern Cross asterism, an asterism is an unofficial pattern in the night sky. Take your time to locate the asterism in the night sky then head to the middle star the Northern Cross, known as Sadr.

Now head south by 1.7 degrees and you should see M29, when searching for this cluster I would recommend using a low power eyepiece.

As M29 is star-forming area there is also some nebulosity associated with this cluster which might be visible in a large enough telescope or image.

How to find M71?

Click to enlarge M71 star chart

The next target is M71 a globular cluster in the Sagitta constellation to locate this cluster find the Northern Cross and then head to the end of the central shaft of the cross to find the beautiful double star Albireo. About halfway between this star and Altair lies the Sagitta constellation then find the brightest two stars in the Sagitta constellation, M71 lies about halfway between these two stars.

You should now be able to see M71 but as one of the smallest known globular clusters it will only appear as a patch of light in binoculars to resolve the stars it contains you will need at least a medium sized telescope. In fact, this cluster is not particularly noticeable in a low power eyepiece and would recommend a medium powered eyepiece to locate it.

M71 is not a particularly concentrated cluster unlike most globular clusters and because of this over its history it has switched back and forth between being classified as an open cluster and a globular cluster. Today M71 is classified as a loosely populated globular cluster.

How to find M56?

Click to enlarge M56 star chart

M56 is the last cluster in the summer triangle and like M71 it is another globular cluster. To locate the cluster, find Vega and then move down to the star Sulafat at the bottom of the constellation Lyra.

This star is also right next to then Ring Nebula and perhaps it is a good object find first to help improve the familiarity with this part of the night sky. Now head down to Albero located at the end of the Northern Cross asterism M56 is located about halfway between the stars Albero and Sulafat.

Unfortunately, it is not a good binocular object as it does not have a bright core instead, you will need a large pair of binoculars, such as the Celestron SkyMaster binoculars. Or a four-inch telescope to reveal a ball of light and a six-inch or larger telescope to reveal the individual stars that make up the globular cluster through the eyepiece.

To view what the M29, M56 and M71 clusters should look like through an eyepiece as well as looking at stacked images of all three clusters please watch the episode below.

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