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Table of all the Sharpless Objects (and Sky Safari Observing list)

NV observing
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#1 alanjgreen


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Posted 01 May 2019 - 04:02 AM



Over the last year, my observations and experiences whilst using my telescopes have fundamentally changed forever (since purchasing a Night Vision Device).


After many years of observing, the NVD allowed me to see the Milky Way as never seen before.


As I sit now and remember the many nights that I have spent over the years trying to see the low down (from the UK) summer nebula trail from the Swan to the Eagle then onto the Triffid and Lagoon then last summer was a revelation.


For these low down nebula, I only have access to them with my 4” refractor (The Dob is housed in a roll-off shed and I cannot get down that low to the Southern horizon). Using my NVD with the 55mm Plossl (offering the greatest exit pupil and fastest effective focal ratio) these bright summer nebula were no longer any challenge!


M17 Swan - The familiar bright shape of the swan is lost in a whole new complex of swirling nebula and jet black patches of hydrogen are revealed within the structure.


M16 Eagle - The Eagle appears in the full shape of “An Eagle” (I never saw that before) with head, wings & body. I remember thinking “it IS an eagle”. The “Pillars of creation” stand out and are easily seen with direct vision within the heart of this nebula with only a 4” scope!


M20 Triffid – A tiny but beautiful Triffid with inner black lane details is easily seen in the fov. I found that I needed to increase the magnification to that provided by my 35mm Panoptic to increase the scale and detail seen even further.


M8 Lagoon – Is unbelievable! So big, so bright. I think of the huge number of attempts that I have made to follow the star chain to find this nebula over the years, and be rewarded with a single dark channel between two small nebula lanes. Now, it leaps out at you, showing bellows of bright circular nebula and filling the field of view, you can’t help but shout aloud “Wow!”



The Messier nebulas are no longer any challenge at all for a small telescope.


Once you have got used to seeing them in all their glory you start to notice “other” patches of nebula at the edges of the fov… and begin to wonder if they too have a name or a designation?


My Sharpless journey began on 24th May 2018, when after observing M16 Eagle Nebula, I nudged up and discovered “a large nebula patch near NGC6604”...


With a little research, I found that this other patch was a Sharpless nebula (the patch near NGC6604 was sh2-54. I used my next few sessions to nudge around looking and counting the numerous nebula patches located around the main Sagittarius attractions. Eventually, I decided that there were too many and I needed a more organized approach to finding and recording my observations of the Sharpless nebula.


It was at this point that I decided to embark on my own personal “journey through the Sharpless nebula”…



My Bumpy Ride Through the Sharpless Objects.


Observing time is unfortunately limited by the weather. Observing quality is limited by the darkness and transparency of the night sky. But these two factors were not the only thing limiting my progress through the catalog…


My Dob has encoders fitted to a Nexus push-to system which I drive using Sky Safari 5 Pro and an Ipad. Unfortunately, the Sharpless catalog has many missing entries in Sky Safari and there are many errors in the objects that are listed which led me on many “wild goose chases” last summer!


I use a Skywatcher AZ GTi mount with my Borg 107FL refractor and for this I need GOTO references that can be entered into a SynScan handset…


At this point I have to mention the book “The Astrophotography Sky Atlas” by Bracken, which has been a life saver in my quest to find and observe the Sharpless Objects. It has complete tables of the Sharpless catalog and shows them all on maps of the night sky. These maps show the shape and size of the objects which is really useful. (Although, it should be noted that I have come across a couple of errors in these tables too!)


It did not take long for me to start making a spreadsheet to capture all the information that I was writing on paper such as GOTO references and accurate nearby Star references for the missing/incorrect objects in Sky Safari.



The Milky Way is Rising Once Again.


After a great night earlier this week where I was able to add twelve new Sharpless Objects to my success list (bringing me to 230 of 313), I decided to share my data on this forum in the hope that it is (a) useful to other observers but also (b) to encourage you all to try to see these fantastic objects if you can.


I am attaching an Excel Spreadsheet that has the following columns:


  • Sh2-Ref – The Sharpless Object Name,
  • Size – The Size of the Sharpless Object on the night Sky,
  • In Sky Safari? – Was the object already listed in Sky Safari,
  • Nearby Star ref – For missing/incorrect objects this is the nearest Star (in Sky Safari),
  • Ref confirmed? – I have successfully used the Nearby Star ref,
  • Nearby Goto Ref – A nearby object that can be located in the SynScan handset,
  • Catalog Name – Any other name for the same Sharpless Object.


I still have 83 objects to go, so some of the references listed may be untested at this point. I did spend one rainy morning sitting with the SynScan handset and Sky Safari making sure that all the Goto references are in the handset!


Sharpless Objects Tables spreadsheet:

Attached File  Sharpless Objects Tables.xlsx   28.55KB   62 downloads



Sky Safari Observing List.


This list currently has 322 objects (which is more than the catalogs 313) as this is still a work in progress. With the Milky Way on the rise, I decided that it was more useful to others if I publish it now smile.gif


If you cross reference the Star Names from the observing list with the Excel sheet then you can find the name of the related Sharpless object.


I had to append “.txt” onto the end of the filename so that cloudynights would upload it. Remove the “.txt” then email it to yourself. If you open the email on a device (that has Sky Safari installed) then once you click on the attachment you should be asked if you want to “open with Sky Safari?”.


Attached File  Sharpless Objects .skylist.txt   47.02KB   72 downloads



I hope this is useful to you and if it is then I look forward to reading your Sharpless object observing reports!


Clear Skies,


Edited by alanjgreen, 01 May 2019 - 07:33 AM.

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#2 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 01 May 2019 - 10:24 PM

Excellent work, Thank You!


One of the things a new NV owner learns very quickly is how inadequate most atlases are with respect to emission nebula. My "discovery" of the large and bright Sharpless 2-119 (where Uranometria showed only blank sky) was what led me to Bracken's excellent atlas. 


Many of us rely heavily on SkySafari. Almost a third of the Sharpless list is missing! Then there are positional errors. And some of the Sharpless Catalog are identified using different catalogs (particularly the Gum Catalog). One must use the Get Info icon to get the Sharpless designations, a rather tedious way to work down the Sharpless List. And of course, any nebula in SkySafari that has a magnitude of "Unknown" will not be rendered on the screen unless you search for it by name, which leads to an interesting Chicken and Egg problem.


Your previous spreadsheets have been a great help to me. So far 173 confirmed Sharpless nebula observations. I am hopeful of completing the catalog in 2019.

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#3 j.gardavsky



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Posted 22 October 2019 - 01:14 PM

Hello Alan,


another fan of the Sharpless objects here!


Thank you for the very nice posts starter,


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#4 C.Hay


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Posted 22 October 2019 - 01:37 PM

Dear Alan,


Thanks a lot for this useful list you have produced. I share your appreciation of Bracken, although it must be noted that his object boundaries tend to be photographically defined, as opposed to visually.


I'm a bit surprised your posting has generated so little resonance in five months.


CS, Christopher

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#5 alanjgreen


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Posted 23 October 2019 - 05:46 AM

Thanks for your kind words!


You have also now reminded me that the excel file attached to this post is out-of-date.


Having now observed 303 of the sharpless objects (and updated the excel along the way!), here is the latest version of the spreadsheet (with more confirmed object positions & gotos)


Attached File  NV sharpless targets v8.xlsx   36.84KB   27 downloads



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#6 Pcbessa


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Posted 25 October 2019 - 07:16 AM

Hello Alan


Another sharpless fan here.


My journey is slightly different from yours, but still a fan of searching for those obscure nebula!


I started my journey almost a year ago, when I bought my 10" and I live just a short drive from Bortle 2 skies, so I have dark skies often whenever the moon is off.


I began asking people what other nebula can I see with my scope, besides the common ones marked in charts, and then I discover the sharpless catalogue.


I have logged about 75 nebula so far, and about a dozen of faint sharpless nebula, especially around Cepheus and Cygnus, but not in Sagittarius, as the constellation is too low on the sky and I am doing only visual observations (I don't have a NV)


So my equipment is very simple:

- a 10" Dob under Bortle 2 skies

- an Astronomics UHC filter

- a 25mm Plossl eyepiece (I must buy a wide field 2" eyepiece in soon)



Without considering NGC or IC objects, some of the objects in my list include: 

The list below is ranked from the brightest to the faintest

- Sharpless 134 and 135 (a vast area with at least two condensations) in Cepheus

- Sharpless 154 in Cepheus

- Tulip nebulae (Sh2-101), somewhat faint with a filter. Under very good circumstances it can be traced after some dark adaptation, but usually its barely detectable

- Lobster Claw Sh157 in Cassiopaea, near M52 and the Bubble, faint emission nebula about a degree in extension, not so easily readily seen, surrounding a star, with shape noticed from a dark sky, with a filter.

- Sh2-119, somewhat faint nebula visible a bit away from North America, and seen as two arcs widely surrounding 68 Cygnus star

- IC434 and Horsehead. I included it here just as a reference point for faintness!

- LBN206, a very faint patch near the Crescent nebula. Not sure about other designations for this object.

- Sh115, rather faint small nebula near Deneb. Also saw extensions to one side, maybe under another designation.

- Sh2-129 Flying bat in Cepheus, very faint, can also be detected without filter

- Cave nebula Sh2-155 in Cepheus (invisible without filter, very faint with a UHC filter; observation confirmed!)

- Sh2-129 Flying bat in Cepheus, very faint, can also be detected without filter

faint, near M78) to be observed again
- Cave nebula Sh2-155 in Cepheus (invisible without filter, very faint with a UHC filter; observation confirmed! One of the faintest nebula seen)

- Sharpless 2-091. Cygnus other veil nebula. Very faint.

- Barnard Loop in Orion Sh2-276 (more detectable with a UHC filter, but still very faint)

- Lower Nebula (Sh2-261) in north Orion (very faint patch, unconfirmed observation, often not seen. Probably the faintest nebula seen)


I have a few more sharpless nebula that I haven't logged from the past few nights, will add them to this list later today.


I also post this link, in case you don't know already. It features really nice descriptions and a few photo maps from a few regions rich in sharpless nebula.


Edited by Pcbessa, 25 October 2019 - 07:28 AM.

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#7 C.Hay


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Posted 30 October 2019 - 02:31 PM

Dear Pcbessa,


I think you'll be surprised at what becomes possible with a good 2-inch widefield eyepiece. And you'll be equally surprised if you give OIII and H-Beta filters a try.


You may find, for instance, that Barnard's Loop moves a good bit up in your ranking. It is not all that difficult an object if you give it enough field of view and apply H-Beta. I can catch it fairly easily in my 80mm binoculars with H-Beta despite having a slightly suburban sky with a nelm of 5m5. The trick is framing it in a sufficiently large field of view, and applying the right filter.

As an aside, an observer in Switzerland, a reliable fellow, has told me that he once saw Barnard's Loop with the naked eye, with no filters. If you really have Bortle 2, I'd think that a pair of H-Beta filters held before the eyes should be enough. OIII before the eyes should bag the Rosette. And so forth ...


Thanks for the link to Reiner Vogel's excellent site. I actually know him, we meet occasionally, but I had plain forgotten about this section of his site. It is amazing what gems are hidden in the Web!


CS, Christopher Hay

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#8 Pcbessa


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Posted 01 November 2019 - 01:33 PM



I have uncorrected myopia in my eyes, so naked eye observing is not good for detailed things like spotting a nebula in the sky. But I do easily see North America with a UHC, and I also could spot, with some just some good attention the Rosette.


In my 50mm finderscope, I see many other things, like the Veil, Heart and Soul nebula, etc...


I am saving up for the h-beta filter and 2" eyepiece.

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