Swan Nebula

M17 The Swan Nebula (In Sagittarius)

Thursday 14th September   8.30 to 9.30pm   No moon

Found the Swan nebula. It’s not visible in the finder scope so I had to sweep the sky looking through the main scope to find it. I didn’t need a filter for this bit – the main body of the swan is visible without one. It could easily be mistaken for a galaxy. Once I’d found it I switched eyepieces giving me slightly higher magnification at 80x. A light pollution filter revealed the neck and part of the head. Not sure whether I prefer the UHC or OIII. It’s right what people say, there is a dark area in front of the swan’s neck – darker than the surrounding sky on all sides.  My star atlas calls M17 the Omega Nebula, which sent me off the trail for a bit. It also suggests the Swan Nebula has a star cluster right on top of it, but I didn’t see any noteworthy stars through the scope.

The Swan Nebula is impressive because of the unusual shape, whereas the Eagle and Lagoon Nebula are impressive because of the combination of a nice star cluster and nebulosity. I recon these three nebulae are about the best in this section of the Milky Way.  After scanning the surrounding sky quite thoroughly using a light pollution filter I couldn’t see anything else glowing, save perhaps a very slight smudge that I suspect was the Trifid Nebula.  Thanks to Nick in one of his posts for putting me on to the Swan Nebula, I may have overlooked it otherwise.

David Geary