Monday, 25 September 2017

Pickering's... eh, no, Fleming's Triangle

Today I'd like to take you back to the remnant of a supernova that exploded somewhere between 6,000 to 10,000 years ago and which must have been a frightening spectacle for the people of the early human civilisations. Today, we know this remnant as the Veil Nebula, a vast web of gaseous filaments that span an area six times the full Moon in the constellation of Cygnus, the swan. Most of us know the Veil because of its spectacular eastern (NGC6992-5) and western (NGC6960) parts. And yet, there's so much more to discover. Try to point your telescope exactly in between those two and you'll find this strange, triangular-shaped cloud. Admittedly, this nebula appears much fainter than the other two because we see it face-on and not edge-on. Therefore its frail light's distributed over a much larger area and it doesn't come as a surprise that it was only discovered in 1904, more than a century after the discovery of the eastern and western Veil. About its discovery, it should be noted that it was Williamina Fleming who noticed the nebula when examining photographic plates, but unfortunately, as was customary at the time, credit went to Edward Charles Pickering, the director of her observatory. Forgive me if I personally prefer Fleming's Triangle (perhaps also because I'm a Fleming? :-) ) Because of its late discovery, the Triangle has no NGC number, although sometimes NGC6979 is erroneously used to refer to it. 

In spite of its relative faintness compared to the better-known parts of the Veil, Fleming's Triangle is an amazing object that truly deserves a bit more attention. In the binoscope at 104x it filled the field of view with gorgeous nebulous filaments that had me glued to the eyepieces for hours. So what are you still waiting for?

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