September 2021
The Backyard Astronomer
Adam England

The Summer Triangle and the Dumbbell Nebula

In July we talked about using the Summer Triangle asterism to locate Messier 57,the Ring Nebula. If you were able to make it to our August Star Party at Pronghorn Park, you most likely were able to view it and the planets Saturn and Jupiter shining bright at opposition. But M57 is just one of the heavenly surprises hiding within the Summer Triangle.

The Dumbbell Nebula (M27) by Joel Cohen

One of the three points of the Summer Triangle is Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. The main stars of the Swan make up the Northern Cross, making it easily identifiable to the naked eye just after sunset. Move down from Deneb to about midway between Vega and Altair, and the main body of the Northern Cross is formed with Deneb at the top and Albireo at the bottom. Inversely, the Swan is viewed as diving down, with Deneb at the tail and Albireo the head. Albireo appears as one bright star until a look through your binoculars or telescope reveal it to be a fun double star, with Albireo A being the brighter, yellow star and Albireo B smaller and blue. It is believed that these two stars are not actually a binary system and orbiting each other, as Albireo B is most likely 300 light years further past Albireo B, and just appears to be a neighbor as viewed from Earth.

Another fun object to view in the Summer Triangle is M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. The first planetary nebula to be discovered during Messier’s charting of non-comets, the Dumbbell is much larger and closer than the Ring Nebula and has higher reflectivity. This makes it much easier to find with binoculars, and higher magnification with a telescope reveals a beautiful shape and some color.

The Prescott Astronomy Club is doing a star party at Pronghorn Park in Prescott Valley on the evening of

Saturday, September 11.

If you would like to learn more about the sky, telescopes, or socialize with other amateur astronomers, visit us at or Facebook @PrescottAstronomyClub to find the next star party, Star Talk, or event.

Adam England is the owner of Manzanita Financial and moonlights as an amateur astronomer, writer, and interplanetary conquest consultant. Follow his rants and exploits on Twitter @AZSalesman or at