Astronomy Digest

Back to
Main Page

M57 - The Ring Nebula

The ring nebula is a great object to find. Beginners can practice their skills at star hopping. Find the constellation Lyra. The constellation looks like a parallelogram with the bright star, Vega, off one of the corners. Find the two corners on the parallelogram opposite Vega. From the star closest to Vega move one third the distance toward the far star. Using a low power lens you should be able to find the ring nebula.

I recommend viewing this objects over and over again. I have seen this object appear incredibly clear. And, I have seen this object not so clear. The ring nebula is a very light sensitive object. This object is best viewed with a new moon. The better
the viewing conditions, the better the object will appear. On a clear night, to get the best view, try not looking directly at the object. Look to one side and use your peripheral vision.

The Ring Nebula is about 2,100 light years from earth. The Ring Nebula is a Planetary Nebulae. About 20,000 years ago the center star was a red giant and began its final phase in a star's life. The star released a cloud of gas that is moving away from the star. The gas is made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. The ring is currently about one light year in diameter. The center star begins to collapse becoming a small hot white dwarf. The center star can be seen in a larger telescope. I have seen this star in a 20 inch telescope on a very clear night. The star appeared as a flash or a blinking light. The flash or blink occurs when the atmosphere settles allowing a brief moment of clarity.

Photograph by Naoyuki Kurita, publisher of Stellar Scenes . Stop by his web site for other great astrophotographs. His work is copyrighted, so please do not copy them without his permission.


Make your own free website on