The Veil Nebula in a small scope

I’ve become a little obsessed with observing this particular supernova remnant. I think it’s because it can show lots of nebulous goodness under less than perfect skies and with less aperture than some: it’s a realistic target.

That said, it’s not straightforward with a light polluted sky, but mid-summer is the best time to try with Cygnus right overhead, and that’s what I do every year.

I’ll admit to being a little late with this post, but I hope you’ll bear with me since this tale was certainly an observing highlight of 2016. Just imagine that it’s August and time to start my annual Veil Nebula hunt…I’ve obtained a fantastic (for me) view in 2016 with the 150PDS and a 24mm Panoptic fitted with an Astronomik UHC filter showing some of the texture and detail of NGC6992/6995. My huge 28mm Nirvana eyepiece surprised me by showing the Veil without a filter in this scope: it’s only a 1.25 inch filter so won’t fit this 2 inch eyepiece.

I’ve also observed it with the same eyepiece combo in my 130P for a less detailed view, and attached the UHC filter to one side of my 15×70 binoculars for an unconventional, but positive, sighting.

But on the night of the 29/30 August 2016 I found myself outside with a cheap 60mm f15 Zennox achromat. This isn’t a great specimen of a 60mm doublet, I’ve been disappointed with anything much over 100x magnification, it gets a bit soft, but after a little fettling the performance below this level is very acceptable.

Not the most promising instrument, but it had been forecast to be clear all night, and as I ventured outside at 21:20 UT considering the coming observation programme the cloud rolled in. I wasn’t going to setup a larger scope if this was going to be the pattern, and the nights variable star observations were off the menu, so I decided to stick with the 60mm as it was already there.

I visited some open clusters and the occasional wide double as they became available thought the cloud for about an hour when it appeared to be clearing. I noticed that Cygnus was in the clear and after a few of its clusters I wondered about the Veil.

The sky was no better than Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude (NELM) 4.5 at this point, but nothing ventured nothing gained, so out came the Astronomik UHC filter to be attached to a 32mm Plossl eyepiece yielding about x28 magnification and about a 1.7 degree field of view.

I swung the scope around to drop the red dot of the finder on the rough location of the Veil Nebula, on and around 52 Cygnii, lining it up in the eyepiece… and nothing. Well perhaps the easier eastern Veil then? Panning to the left I eventually found it, not the best view I’ve had, but definitely there first in averted vision and then directly (AV1). Personally for such a small scope I’d call that a success.

I moved on to other things, but at 22:45 UT it has cleared a lot more, in fact it was getting startlingly clear for these parts. NELM was in excess of 5.0 now, and that’s pretty good for outskirts of a small town in the Midlands of the UK. You need to give this another go I thought.

Back on went the UHC filter and the red dot was placed on the probable location of the eastern Veil (NGC6992 and NGC6995). It was obviously there, no averted vision needed this time! I couldn’t see much of the fine detail I’ve caught with the 150mm reflector this year, but I’m using a 60mm with about a sixth of the light gathering power. The overall shape of the nebula could be discerned without any trouble and I was delighted. I still couldn’t see much to the west (NGC6960), a hint of ghostly shape perhaps.

But the real surprise came when I removed the UHC filter.

The scope was still in position, so I knew that the object was in there somewhere, but with the 32mm Plossl alone I could see the vaguest hint of the nebula! Generous use of averted vision (AV3) was required and I tried moving the scope around to draw out detail. It did. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I didn’t know it was in the field of view, but there it was.

I was using an observing hood to cut direct light on the eyepiece and moving the scope confirmed that it wasn’t a reflection since it retained its position relative to the field stars, I even rotated the eyepiece just in case, but the pattern stood firm.

I decided to test the shape I was seeing by blinking it with the UHC filter. The view without the filter was matched, and bettered, with the filter between my eye and the eye lens of the eyepiece. An amazing result for a small, cheap and mediocre telescope.

I wrote some notes about my observations, but by 23:15 UT the skies had changed again. A blanket of high cirrus has swept in from the west and NELM was no better than 3. I called it an end to this rollercoaster of a night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.