Focus: M27 The Dumbbell Nebula


Finding and observing objects in the sky is only half the enjoyment of visual astronomy. The other half comes from learning a little about some of the amazing things you will see in your eyepiece.
For example, the Dumbbell Nebula M27 is one of the finest nebula objects you can see and while it is primarily a summer to fall object, it is still observable in our darker late fall and winter skies.
To start out, look to the north-west for the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra. You can easily recognize it by the trapezoid. Then, let your eyes gaze higher moving toward the zenith as you look for the Northern Cross in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. You can easily find it by looking for the bright star Deneb which represents the head of the swan. Now look low near the horizon in the west for the bright star Altair in Aquila, the Eagle.
Congratulations you have now found the Summer Triangle! Remember this asterism as it will help you locate other objects.
Now, if you have a new Dob, use your low power, 25mm eyepiece, return to Vega and bring your telescope across the sky to Albireo, the beautiful double star in Cygnus, often called the Jewel of the Night. Continue on scanning about 1/2 the distance you travelled between Vega and Albireo and you should find M27 the Dumbbell Nebula.
I have attached two star maps of the area for your assistance, the first illustrating the horizon with the relative position of the constellations as at 8:00PM. The second map is a zoomed version of the area of M27. 
The second map is a zoomed version of the area of M27. The black area is below the horizon. Note also the Sagitta Cnstellation. The stars are brighter than Vulpecula and the constellation is easier to find. Look for it naked eye. It can also be used to find M27.
 In your eyepiece M27 should resemble an hourglass or partially eaten apple, similar to this:
You should be able to spot the central star which is just visible at the centre of the pinch, and is bounded by a slightly darker area. you should see two bright triangular lobes extending north and south of the pinched area. As the nebula takes high power very well, switch to the 10mm eyepiece to spot the many stars in the lobes, with the brighter ones being in the center of the northern triangle.
Once you have found M27, take a look at this web page. It gives a good write-up on the Dumbbell Nebula. You will learn some amazing facts about the nebula.
I hope this helps in your journey among the stars. These are some of the things I have enjoyed finding and observing in my telescope and I hope you will too.

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