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September deep sky: Cygnus Loop and Bode’s Galaxy

September deep sky: White and blue tendrils surrounded by reddish filaments and haze.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Jeffrey Horne in Nashville, Tennessee, captured this photo of the Cygnus Loop on September 12, 2021. He wrote: “The Cygnus Loop, taken mostly from light-polluted Nashville.” Thank you for sharing the beauty of the September deep sky, Jeffrey!

September deep sky photos

Explore the depths of September’s deep sky with these amazing photos taken by two photographers and friends of EarthSky.

The Cygnus Loop

The Cygnus Loop is a large supernova remnant stretching from the constellation Cygnus the Swan into neighboring Vulpecula the Fox. Portions of the Cygnus Loop are also called the Veil Nebula. The Cygnus Loop lies approximately 2,600 light-years from Earth. The bright tendrils and dusty filaments span 130 light-years in diameter, stretching three degrees across. A span of three degrees would look like the width of six full moons on the dome of our sky. The nebula is about 21,000 years old. As yet, scientists have been unable to find the stellar remnant that caused the supernova explosion.

Bode’s Galaxy

Bode’s Galaxy, or M81 (Messier 81), lies in Ursa Major, to the upper right of the Big Dipper’s Bowl on September evenings. This majestic face-on spiral galaxy is close enough to Polaris, the North Star, that you can technically hunt down this deep-sky object on any night of the year from northern latitudes. Bode’s Galaxy shines at magnitude 6.9, making it a decent target for binoculars. If you go out galaxy hunting for M81, you’ll be rewarded with a bonus galaxy nearby, M82, an edge-on spiral shining at magnitude 8.4.

Spiral galaxy, bright at center and diffuse outward.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Hoskin in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, captured this photo of M81 on September 14, 2021. He wrote: “Messier 81, also known as Bode’s Galaxy, is a grand spiral galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its center. Bode’s Galaxy is located in Ursa Major and is about 12 million light-years from Earth.” Thank you, David! M81 is not just a September deep sky target but can be enjoyed from northern latitudes all year.

Bottom line: EarthSky readers shared two amazing deep-sky photographs with us: the Cygnus Loop and Bode’s Galaxy, both good observing targets for September.

September 24, 2021
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