How to find the Ring Nebula (M57) a great observing target summer skies

The Ring Nebula also known as Messier 57 (M57) is a great object to find in the summer months as it is bright enough to stand out against the lighter sky as well as being visible in telescopes of 60 millimetres aperture or larger. The nebula was discovered in January 1779 by Charles Messier is estimated to be between 1,000 and 5,000 light-years away from Earth.

This is not a normal nebula, but a planetary nebula these occurs when a shell of ionized gas, usually mostly hydrogen and helium, is ejected from an old red giant star. Leaving a nebulas gas with a small hot central star.

The central star in the Ring Nebula is too faint to be viewed in any telescope less than 12 inches in aperture.

How to find the Ring Nebula?

Click to enlarge Ring Nebula star chart

To find the Ring Nebula first locate the bright star Vega one of the brightest stars in the northern hemisphere during summertime. Then head down from Vega and slightly to the south a short way away you will find two stars bright enough to see with the naked eye even in light-polluted skies now look at those two stars with a low powered eyepiece or a finderscope and you should see that one star has a star close to it you need to go towards the other star. As you go in this direction you should see a small fuzzy ring.

It is also a good idea to use a Nebula Filter when viewing the Ring Nebula to bring out the light of the nebula better. Another way to see more detail try using averted vision this is where you look away slightly from the actual object looking out of the corner of your eye. You will be surprised how much more detail you can see using this method.

Once you have found the Ring Nebula as a bonus you can use the bright star Vega to find the Dumbbell Nebula as well.

For more detailed information on how to find the Ring Nebula, including on what you can expect to see through the eyepiece. Please watch the episode below. 

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