Messier Objects

M17 "Swan Nebula": Emission Nebula (Sagittarius) RA: 18h 20.8m / DEC: -16° 10'.0
Instrument: 10-inch Starfinder

M17 is an emission nebula in Sagittarius. This nebula's distinctive appearance has earned a pair of common monikers. Some call it the Omega nebula. While others, including myself, call M17 the Swan. M17 is located in far northern Sagittarius just south of the Serpens/Scutum border. This is a region rich in bright star clusters and nebulae. Magnitude 5.4 HD 168415 shines just 19' to the north of the Eagle. M17 extends 10'x5' at 129X in my 10-inch. An OIII or UHC filter will really bring out the detail and structure within this beauty. Notice the five 11th and 12th magnitude stars that outline the western border of the nebula. Look for neighboring M16 2.4 degrees to the north.

Instrument: 18-inch Obsession

The Swan comes to life in the big Obsession. The richness of nebulosity and detail is almost overwhelming. Several months passed before I had the courage to attempt sketching this celestial showpiece. The sketch at left was made at 173X and represents over an hour at the eyepiece. Most of that time, I observed without a filter. But I did spend several minutes studying my subject through UHC and OIII filters while making this drawing. This work stands on its own and speaks for itself. But I will comment that the most obvious difference between the two scopes is the sheer expanse of nebulosity visible in the 18-inch. The "tail feathers" arching to the east; the crowning cloud to the south and the billowing gas shell up north combine to fill the entire field with a rich, textured gauze. It is truly magnificent & miraculous.

M16-Eagle Nebula M18


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Revised: July 7, 2005 [WDF]