SH038 – Find the Cocoon Nebula, The Iris Nebula, and The Fireworks Galaxy

In Episode SH038 of Star Hopping…

We’ll look at the Cepheus region, and show you how to find three challenge objects –  IC 5146, the Cocoon Nebula, NGC 7023 – the mysterious Iris Nebula, and the very active Fireworks Galaxy, NGC 6946.


So tonight we’re going to investigate another constellation well up in the northeast in mid July. It’s Cepheus the King, mate to Cassiopeia the Queen that we discussed last week. Although Cepheus lies a little outside the swath of faint light that is the Milky Way, there are still many great deep sky objects in the area. But as a warning, the three targets tonight are pretty faint, and will require larger telescopes, so I’ll be giving you a bit of a challenge. You’ve had it easy the last few weeks with our Star Hopping targets, so it’s time to do a little work. But these types of targets are the most rewarding when you find them.

I don’t get much of a chance to image objects in Cepheus because of a large tree  that lives just northeast of the Observatory. Additionally our little town of Saint Cloud is in that direction, so the local Walmart tends to create a pretty good light dome in the northeast sky. We’re much better off to the south.

So Cepheus is not a very well known constellation because it is not particularly bright, but it does have one bright star, called Alderamin, which we will use as our home base.  Cepheus is located between Cassiopeia, Cygnus, and the massive circumpolar constellation of Draco the Dragon. As far south as Florida, it never sets and is in the sky all night, although it’s best seen through the summer months as it rises high into the northeastern sky.

So we’re going to start off with a tougher object tonight, aimed at those of you with large scopes, say 10” or larger. We’ll check out the home of a celestial butterfly, right after this message…

Get the rest of the script along with the images and star charts in the Field Notes Guide for this episode!

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Credits for this Episode

  • Star Chart Images & Simulations Courtesy of SkySafari Astronomy
  • Cocoon Nebula image by the Maine Astronomical Society
  • Iris Nebula image by Jimmy Walker
  • Fireworks Galaxy image by Robert Gendler / Suburu Telescope

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