M17 (NGC 6618) -- Swan or Omega Nebula in Sagittarius
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Swan Nebula
There are some deep-sky objects that words just cannot describe.  A ghost swan bathed in
ethereal glow, forever swimming in silence, through the dark of the night, against an invisible
wind that is blowing the feathers from its body, is the best that I can do – but it hardly describes
the grander of M17 in the eyepiece.  In my drawing’s orientation the swan is upside down and
swimming at a 45-degree angle to the left (sorry about that).

Several sources state that M17, is the finest emission nebula in small aperture telescopes that
can be seen from the United States. That its more complex-quilted glow rivals even the great
Orion Nebula. I personally will not go that far myself, but I could easily argue both sides of the
argument. Drawing the Swan was as challenging as drawing the Orion Nebula, and I am not
sure that anyone could ever do it, or the Orion Nebula, justice on paper.  This is one object that
to me looks better through the telescope than it usually photographs, since the contrast in
brightness within the nebula easily becomes lost.  Although, I used nebula filters in my drawings
to trace the faint outer extensions of the nebula, esthetically I prefer the unfiltered view, even in a
small telescope.  The arch and bar making up the swan is evident even in my vintage 1960’s
60mm/f15 achromatic refractor without nebula filters.

M17 consists of both the emission nebula and an open cluster.  I find the open cluster so spread
out and lacking bright stars that I forget it is there.  To me the ghostly swan rules this point in
space.  The swan’s body spans 72 trillion miles (12 light years) and if you include the whole of
the nebula it is 30 light years across.  That is one big bird and one that belongs on every
Naturalist’s life-list!