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NGC 7009, The Saturn Nebula

September 28, 2002, 9:50 - 10:40 PM, seeing 4 - 5 (fair - good), transparency 4.9.

Astro-Physics 7.1" f/9 EDT refractor on homemade Dobsonian-style mount. Magnification 162x.

The Saturn Nebula is a small, bright planetary nebula located in the constellation of Aquarius. It has a magnitude of 8.3, a size of 28.0"x23.0", about a degree west of Nu Aquarii or 13 Aquarii. It is estimated to be 2,900 light years away.

William Herschel discovered the Saturn Nebula on September 7th 1782 using his 18.7" aperture reflecting telescope that had a focal length of 20 feet. He described the nebula as "Very bright, nearly round planetary not well defined disk."

However it was Lord Rosse who first gave it the name "Saturn Nebula" due to the ansae (the Latin word for handles, used to refer to the edges of Saturn's rings) extending from both sides of the nebula which reminded him of Saturn. This was the first planetary nebula that he observed with his 6-foot (72") aperture reflector.

Through the eyepiece the Saturn Nebula appears oval in shape and has a light blue color to it. The ansae are detectable using averted vision at 52x, and visible with direct vision at 74x. At 162x the top part of the nebula showed some mottling or variation in tone which was not visible in the bottom portion.