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Hey! Have You Seen All of the Brightest Planetary Nebulae?

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#1 SNH

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 02:50 PM

I love planetary nebula (PNe) – but not because they show a plethora of detail in telescopes (um, they don’t), but because they constitute the brightest nebulae for small telescopes and binoculars. So two years ago, after having viewed all of the PNe that I knew of that were brighter than magnitude +11.0, I undertook a survey to find those that were visible with only a 2-inch (50mm) telescope. I thought that with such limited aperture I would be able to make a quick project of it and maybe even find a few that I had missed that were binocular visible.
What I discovered was really surprising – I was able to see a full 75 that weren’t visible in my binoculars!! So here is a link to my recently “finished” project 100+ Planetary Nebulae Visible with Small Telescopes and Binoculars. I’ve put the word finished in quotation because I plan to double check the visibility of a few PNe come September and expect to need to make an accompanying Excel spreadsheet for people in the coming month. So I’m currently holding the pdf in my Google Drive, but after I finalize it in autumn, I’ll try and find a permanent home for it on the Internet.
So I hope it inspires some of you to go after many of the brightest PNe – irregardless that many are nearly stellar – because they’re not hardly making any new ones!!!

 

Scott

 

EDIT: Here is a link to the Excel spreadsheet I promised!


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#2 Astrojensen

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 03:00 PM

Most impressive work, but I wonder why you have included NGC 604 and Mrk 71 on the list, when they're not planetary nebulae (and have, to my knowledge, never been catalogued as such, either)? And what about the white dwarfs? 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark



#3 TOMDEY

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 03:20 PM

Hi, Scott... Cool! I am certainly most interested, and planetaries are toward the top of my ~To Do List~

 

But my motivation is different: I got my... 36-inch telescope up and running fine, with great views that handles high magnification wonderfully. And realized that "little" planetaries should sure look great with this thing... and show structure and color. So, looked at a few - WOW!

 

I'll use your list for hit list!    Thanks!    Tom



#4 SNH

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Posted 16 July 2019 - 03:22 PM

Well, Thomas, I'm going to resist quoting from my article and just say that I explain why in the paragraph titled "Bonus Objects". But I will say that it's part of my philosophy to not get stuck in one area but to realize that there are other amazing objects out there for a small telescope owner. In every publication I've made, I've included a few "bonus objects" (objects that weren't my main focus) to remind the reader that there is always more out there. I love observing for that reason!

 

Scott


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#5 Sasa

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 07:29 AM

Excellent work, Scott. You saw more planetaries then me (71) in apertures smaller than my smallest telescope! Small planetaries are favorite target of mine as well as they are not affected that much by light pollution. Not only that they are visible in small apertures, but you can see surprising level of details in few of them in very modest apertures. Here are just few exaples through (slightly) larger apertures (63 and 82mm) to encourage more people to try to discover their  beauties:

 

ngc6543.jpg   NGC6572.jpg  

 

NGC7027.jpg


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#6 Feidb

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 08:07 AM

Working on them. Slowly but surely (and don't call me Shirley).


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#7 TOMDEY

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 10:08 AM

Well, Thomas, I'm going to resist quoting from my article and just say that I explain why in the paragraph titled "Bonus Objects". But I will say that it's part of my philosophy to not get stuck in one area but to realize that there are other amazing objects out there for a small telescope owner. In every publication I've made, I've included a few "bonus objects" (objects that weren't my main focus) to remind the reader that there is always more out there. I love observing for that reason!

 

Scott

A good philosophy! Every ~observing session~ I make a point of viewing some old friend targets, then concentrating on a ~class of objects~, then making sure to view some ~new objects~ ... and finishing up with a couple of splashy traditional favorites that everyone else always is looking at. I especially like to include one obscure target that no one else ever visits!   Tom


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#8 Araguaia

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 05:44 AM

Great work!  33 planetary nebulas have made it into my "favorites" list.  All show detail and most show some color.  Every once in a while I go on a PN binge and observe a couple of dozen, sometimes adding one or two to my list.


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#9 REC

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 11:36 AM

Love them as some have color to them. Great list, thanks!



#10 Feidb

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Posted 19 July 2019 - 08:59 PM

I've seen 89 planetaries so far, according to my database. All from a variety of catalogs including Abell, Messier, NGC, IC, whatever.



#11 eps0mu0

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Posted 21 July 2019 - 12:42 PM

This is a nice effort... I don’t have a 2” scope, but this is a good list for those of us with larger scopes who are not accomplished observers, and those of us in light polluted environs.

This is another very nice observing list for PNe’s, and nicely laid off... it complements the nice pdf published by Massimo Zecchin.

Many people will probably point out objects that should have made the list... my suggestion is a fairly bright, but small object, IC418 in Lepus. Of course, I don’t know what it would be like in a 2”, but if I can see it pretty easily, then I am sure the 50mm refractor aficionados would have no problem with it.

And... they are making new ones! just at a very slow pace, compared to our lifetimes.

Regards,

J.F.


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#12 SNH

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Posted 23 July 2019 - 11:28 AM

This is a nice effort... I don’t have a 2” scope, but this is a good list for those of us with larger scopes who are not accomplished observers, and those of us in light polluted environs.

This is another very nice observing list for PNe’s, and nicely laid off... it complements the nice pdf published by Massimo Zecchin.

Many people will probably point out objects that should have made the list... my suggestion is a fairly bright, but small object, IC418 in Lepus. Of course, I don’t know what it would be like in a 2”, but if I can see it pretty easily, then I am sure the 50mm refractor aficionados would have no problem with it.

And... they are making new ones! just at a very slow pace, compared to our lifetimes.

Regards,

J.F.

Yes, it may surprise people that I didn't include many like IC 418 (which is like my favorite PNe!). The reason? Because it's one of the 24 that I've seen in my 7x35 binoculars. And so I simply left a link to my previous eBook publication that lists all those 24.

And yes, they are making new ones. IC 4997 (another I've seen in my 7x35s) is one of the newest I know of!!

 

Scott



#13 CounterWeight

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Posted 26 July 2019 - 08:30 PM

Have not kept good track of how many I have seen but I really like them too for all reasons mentioned above.  I used to go by Hynes book, and or the Webb Society book, then planetarium software came along and they are standard diet.  I love showing to folks when I outreach try to include 1 or 2 along with other type objects depending on time and season.



#14 payner

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 01:31 PM

Hey Scott: Thank you for making available your excellent PN guide.



#15 SNH

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 04:47 PM

Okay, so I did a few tiny tweaks of the PDF and have now finished the Excel spreadsheet of the 75 PNe I saw with my "2-inch telescope". All the links are still at the top in the very first post but have been updated by the moderator!

 

Scott


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#16 CrazyPanda

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 05:22 AM

I've been doing a similar exercise where I've been going through each constellation and cataloging every Messier and NGC planetary nebula, as well as rating them on a 0-5 scale so I can go back and know which ones are interesting enough to spend more time observing, and which ones I want to prioritize when I eventually get an aperture upgrade.

 

I've done all of the summer constellations visible from my location, with the exception of Scorpius (that will have to wait until next year). I'm going to resume the fall season objects at the next new moon cycle.

 

I also want to go through and try for some of the IC and PK planetaries. While most are too small or faint for my scope/skies, there are some that are even more obvious than NGC planetaries.

 

It's been a fun observing exercise and there have been quite a few surprising gems that I didn't even know about until I literally went through the sky object by object to see all of them.



#17 Organic Astrochemist

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Posted 18 August 2019 - 06:57 PM

This is a nice effort... 

This is another very nice observing list for PNe’s, and nicely laid off... it complements the nice pdf published by Massimo Zecchin.

 

Scott has certainly given us a wonderful list, but it is surprising that most of the truly bright planetary nebulae (by visual magnitude) aren't on the telescope or binocular list (they are in Zecchin's list).

 

Many of these much brighter planetary nebulae are smaller than those on Scott's list. Because they are small, either using greater magnification or a filter might help to detect them. 

 

Scott's post motivated me to observe some planetary nebulae by spectroscopy with my 55 mm borg telescope. The following spectra were taken with a star analyzer grating and an ASI290 cooled monochrome camera. The mount was an iOptron skytracker camera mount. I'm very impatient so these were acquired in under 5 minutes and processed on the fly with R-Spec software.

 

Typically, these spectra were acquired under terrible conditions: very bright moon, poor transparency and passing clouds.

 

I'm just starting but I'm pleased with the results so far. These spectra clearly show why a UHC or OIII filter is useful for observing planetary nebulae because the majority of visible light is emitted at the wavelengths these filter allow to pass (the dark-adapted eye is insensitive to H-alpha at 656 nm).

Attached Thumbnails

  • NGC 7009.png
  • NGC 6210.png
  • NGC 6818.png
  • NGC 6572.png
  • NGC 7027.png

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#18 timokarhula

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Posted 23 August 2019 - 08:52 AM

The other night I finished a small project of mine, which took 41 years.  I had observed all the planetary nebulae in the NGC. The last one happened to be NGC6620 in Sgr.  It is catalogued as magnitude 15.0 photographically but I estimated it as 11th magnitude visually!  NGC6620 is therefore one planetary that could in principle be seen even with binoculars but there are so many field stars making it difficult to discern with low power.

 

/Timo Karhula


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#19 CrazyPanda

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Posted 23 August 2019 - 10:57 AM

The other night I finished a small project of mine, which took 41 years.  I had observed all the planetary nebulae in the NGC. The last one happened to be NGC6620 in Sgr.  It is catalogued as magnitude 15.0 photographically but I estimated it as 11th magnitude visually!  NGC6620 is therefore one planetary that could in principle be seen even with binoculars but there are so many field stars making it difficult to discern with low power.

 

/Timo Karhula

I might have to revisit this one.

 

From my observing log in a 15" dob: "Stellar. No features to be discerned even at 571x"

 

Telescopius lists it as a scant 7.8" across, but a fairly high surface brightness of 16.9mpass

 

The trouble is it's so low on the horizon for me that I have more light pollution and atmosphere to contend with.



#20 timokarhula

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Posted 23 August 2019 - 08:46 PM

In a quick look, NGC6620 was about as bright as the V=11.49 star 2.1 arc-minutes WSW.  There was a brighter star just 1.0 arc-minutes SE of NGC6620.  With 10-inch and 170x power NGC6620 appeared as bright, very small and looked liked a diffuse star (tiny disk).  The planetary was at 52 degrees altitude.

 

/Timo Karhula


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#21 timokarhula

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 12:38 AM

I drove to the bush last night for the first time during my vacation in Western Australia.  I also finished the IC-catalog of planetaries by observing IC2501 in Carina.  Thus, had I logged every planetary nebula in the NGC/IC-catalogues!  IC2501 was only at 11 deg altitude and was stellar even with high power.  My magnitude estimate was 10.4 and IC2501 is also eligible for binoculars.

 

By the way.  I measured the darkest (clear) night skies last night in my entire life.  When I pointed my SQM-L towards zenith in Grus the apparatus showed  a series of 22.09, 22.10 and 22.12!  It was better than 22.00 until moonrise.  First I thought the batteries were bad but back at my house in Geraldton it showed the normal values of about 20.1.  Yes, I know.  Maybe I should start a new thread about my observing run here. smile.gif 

 

/Timo Karhula



#22 Feidb

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Posted 25 August 2019 - 10:05 PM

Hah! I spent a very unproductive evening last night trying to find some of these "easy" planetaries. While I've already seen a bunch of them and previously scratched them off the list, some of them supposedly visible in a 2-inch scope I couldn't find in my 16-incher because not only do I not have a precision aiming system like the author's SCT setup, but many of them are microscopic stellar specks.

 

I somehow managed to stumble across four of them, but it wasn't easy. At 209X with a O-III I barely sussed them out against the background of stars as non-stellar, but just barely because they were so tiny as to be indistinguishable from the stars themselves, filter or no filter, magnification or no magnification.

 

I managed to find one on the second binocular list that actually looked like something significant. When the size is <15" as the author indicates, that's pretty small and even my images in Megastar just show specks.

 

It was still an interesting evening and at least I was finally able to bag Palomar 14.


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#23 SNH

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 04:50 PM

This is a nice effort... I don’t have a 2” scope, but this is a good list for those of us with larger scopes who are not accomplished observers, and those of us in light polluted environs.

This is another very nice observing list for PNe’s, and nicely laid off... it complements the nice pdf published by Massimo Zecchin.

Many people will probably point out objects that should have made the list... my suggestion is a fairly bright, but small object, IC418 in Lepus. Of course, I don’t know what it would be like in a 2”, but if I can see it pretty easily, then I am sure the 50mm refractor aficionados would have no problem with it.

And... they are making new ones! just at a very slow pace, compared to our lifetimes.

Regards,

J.F.

Here's to you eps0mu0 and Organic Astrochemist! I've updated the link in my opening post at the top of the page to a version of my 100+ PNe Catalog that contains the PNe I saw in my 7x35 binoculars. I hope it clears up some of the confusion because I have seen all the very brightest that get above my horizon in 7x35 binoculars.

 

Oh, and Timo, I'll be checking out NGC 6620 for sure (and if I haven't tried for it because of its "bad" magnitude).

 

Scott



#24 Organic Astrochemist

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Posted 26 August 2019 - 10:19 PM

Thanks Scott. I think that is a great and comprehensive document. I think you have great skies and tremendous observing technique.

 

I think Feidb makes some interesting points about the size and difficulty of many of these objects. I'm curious, in arriving at this list, about how many objects did you try to observe and found that you were unable to do so? I also find that star-hopping to these objects is challenging.

 

To me, it boggles the mind how some of these objects were discovered and identified as planetary nebulae.

 

With my 55 mm of aperture I was able to get the spectrum of the very brightest of your telescopic list, NGC 6886. It helps that it is extremely small, 7.6 arcseconds, so the light is concentrated in one small dot.

I note with amusement an article from 1904 that includes NGC 6886 in a list of very faint spectra ! At that time the identity of [O III] was unknown.

 

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  • NGC 6886.png

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#25 SNH

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Posted 27 August 2019 - 02:54 PM

Hah! I spent a very unproductive evening last night trying to find some of these "easy" planetaries. While I've already seen a bunch of them and previously scratched them off the list, some of them supposedly visible in a 2-inch scope I couldn't find in my 16-incher because not only do I not have a precision aiming system like the author's SCT setup, but many of them are microscopic stellar specks.

 

I somehow managed to stumble across four of them, but it wasn't easy. At 209X with a O-III I barely sussed them out against the background of stars as non-stellar, but just barely because they were so tiny as to be indistinguishable from the stars themselves, filter or no filter, magnification or no magnification.

 

I managed to find one on the second binocular list that actually looked like something significant. When the size is <15" as the author indicates, that's pretty small and even my images in Megastar just show specks.

 

It was still an interesting evening and at least I was finally able to bag Palomar 14.

Okay, first to my friend Feidb. Everything I list that I saw with 2-inches of aperture had two things going for me concerning my telescope. It tracks the sky (amazingly helpful!) which allows me to use a much higher magnification than most small telescope owners would feel comfortable using because their telescopes usually don't have a motor drive. The reason I used 83x is because that was the lowest magnification I had at the time that I started the project (I now also have 72.5x). What I did was star-hop to each PNe location (no precision aiming system there!) with all 10-inches of aperture of my telescope and then put the mask with the 3-inch (75mm) on the front of my telescope. If I could still see the PNe without a huge amount of trouble, I then put the 50mm mask on. With a lot of the harder ones, I had memorize the position of the PNe, then quickly get up and put the mask on, then go back and see if I get any pops in the same spot that the PNe had been. If I felt that I was barely getting it, but needed help confirming, I'd take a 3-foot yard stick and "knock" my mask off the telescope as I was looking through the eyepiece. Then I'd get to see if it appeared exactly where I thought I was seeing glimpses of it.

All that being said, I do not mean for anybody to try my list with a tiny telescope. Heck, I wouldn't do it myself if I stumbled upon this list like you guys are. I just wanted more people to know about the brightest PNe that are out there, irregardless that many are nearly stellar. Speaking of which, a shout-out to Feidb for mentioning my choice of size classification! I chose to say "smaller than 15"" because most telescope owners at moderate magnification are going to have trouble finding it if it's that size or smaller. I confirmed each one using all 10-inches of aperture and a narrowpassband filter sold by DGM Optics.


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