M27 (The Dumbbell Nebula)
M27, The Dumbbell Nebula, NGC 6853, Magnitude 7.30, Size 8.0' x 5.7', Constellation: Vulpecula
What's the most luscious planetary nebula in the sky for visual observers? M57, The Ring, has many fans, but I think that Vulpecula's Dumbbell blows it away. The Ring is nice, but M27 blows it away detail wise. In addition to lots of intriguing nebulosity--the size of M27 is large enough for it to show more than a small scope can see of the Ring--the central star, which is at around 13th magnitude, is reasonably easy in medium scopes.
M27 is one of the larger planetary nebulae in the sky, presumably making it one of the closer one, with distance estimates ranging from around 500 to 1000 light years.
I'd been imaging M27 all summer long during 2005. I'd gotten some pretty good results, but I think this is my most impressive Dumbbell to date. The dimmer nebulosity perpendicular to the lobes shows up very well, better than I've seen in most film astrophotos.
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