Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009) -- Planetary Nebula in Aquarius
The Colorful Saturn Nebula
At magnitude 8 and less than an arcminute is size, the Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009) is one of the
brightest Planetary Nebula in the night sky. And one of the prettiest and most interesting in a
small telescope. It is also one of the few Planetary Nebula, I think, that looks better without a
nebula filter than with. The central star (a White Dwarf) is easy to spot at magnitude 11.5.
The Saturn nebula gets its name because it reminds one of viewing the planet Saturn when the
rings are edge on. The so-called rings appear on the Planetary Nebula as distinct handles
(called ansae) even in small telescopes. Be sure to up the magnification since the planetary is
small. In fact, when scanning to first locate NGC 7009 under low power look for a slightly-fuzzy,
green or blue star – only by adding magnification do the ansae and the Central Star become
I have over fifty-years of notes and drawings of the Saturn Nebula. Most striking to me when I
look through my past observation records is what color I reported. Over the years, distinctly-
blue, light-blue, greenish, solid-green and pale-greenish-white are some of my color
observations of the Saturn Nebula.
The color can be influenced on many factors including, sky transparency, amount of light
pollution, size of telescope, visual genes of the observer, age of observer and possibly even
the mood of the observer. Still I am surprised at the wide range of color renditions that I have
recorded for the Saturn Nebula over time.
This observation/drawing was done through a 110mm high-quality apo-refractor under
reasonably good sky conditions (for Maryland), with 69 year-old-eyes. I saw the Saturn Nebula