Constellation - Cygnus

Constellation - Cygnus

Constellation Cygnus

Cygnus is a constellation in the Northern Hemisphere. Also called the Northern Cross or The Swan. This easy to recognize constellation contains a wealth of deep space objects for you to find. Follow the tour below to see the sights. Cygnus is home to the Kappa Cygnid meteor shower that peaks around 18th August and reaches around 6 meteors per hour. Cygnus is also home to the x-ray source, Cygnus X-1. This was the first black hole discovered and is thought to be accreting matter from a binary star system.

Don't forget to view the beautiful double star Albireo (labelled 3.1 on the chart) before you move on to the next constellation. 


Cygnus the swan has many myths associated with it. It is depicted as the God Zeus in disguise as he attempts to seduce Leda, whom later gives birth to the Gemini, Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra. Other myths describe the swan as being the transformation of Orpheus the murdered musician of the gods. He is placed as a swan next to his harp, the Lyra constellation.

Take the Tour:

Number Object Description Magnitude Surface Brightness
1 C15 Planetary Nebula 8.8 7
2 C20 Diffuse Nebula 4 ≈30 spread over 3 degrees
3 C33 Diffuse Nebula 7 Very large diffuse nebula
C34 Diffuse Nebula 8
4 M29 Open Cluster 6.5 11
5 C27 Diffuse Nebula 7.4 16
6 M56 Globular Cluster 8.3 12
7 C37 Open Cluster 5.7 Unknown
8 M27 Planetary Nebula 7.2 11

Each image is the size of a full moon for size comparison unless stated otherwise.

C15, The Blinking Planetary:


Caldwell 15 or NGC 6826 is a planetary nebula found 2,200 light years away. This planetary nebula appears to blink as you observe it. This occurs because the central star overwhelms the surrounding nebula when you look directly at the nebula. However, when you avert your vision the nebula returns to view. Find out more on averted vision here.

C20 (120'), The North America Nebula:

C20 120'

Caldwell 20 or NGC 7000 is an emission nebula found about 1,800 light years away. This is a large object in the sky that covers around 3 degrees of the sky and takes the form of North America. It is difficult to see due to its low surface brightness and very large size. It is best seen in binoculars or a telescope with a wide field eyepiece and a UHC filter. It is possible to make out the hazy grey "smudge" with the naked eye and the help of a UHC filter.

C33 (60'), The East Veil Nebula:

C33 60'

Caldwell 33 or NGC 6992 is a part of the remnant of a supernova that occurred around 7,000 years ago. It was discovered by Herschel in September 1784. This is a very difficult nebula to see but is made far easier with the use of an OIII filter. 

C34 (60'), The West Veil Nebula:

C34 60'

Caldwell 34 or NGC 6960 is another part of the Veil nebula that is a the remnant of a supernova thought to have occurred around 7,000 years ago. The veil nebula is estimated to be about 1,470 light years away. These large objects are difficult to observe without the use of an OIII filter. This nebula also has the names the Witch's broom, the finger of God and Filamentary Nebula.



Messier 29 is an open cluster found 4,000 light years away. It was discovered by Messier in July 1764. This is an easy to see and find open cluster. It appears like a shortened version of the Big Dipper. This cluster is heading straight for us and the main stars you can see are all giant stars. Just imagine how bright it will be when this small star sytem reaches us. 

C27, The Crescent Nebula:


Caldwell 27 or NGC 6888 is an emission nebula found 5,000 light years away. This is a difficult to see object with a low surface brightness. It has the name crescent nebula due to its shape that has been created by inward and outward shock waves from the red giant star at its centre shedding its outer envelope.



Messier 56 is a globular cluster located 32,900 light years away. It was discoverd by Messier in January 1779. This is a challenging object to find but is found roughly half way between Alberio and the star labelled 3.3 on the chart. It is interesting as it has a retograde orbit through our galaxy and so, was probably part of a dwarf galaxy that became integrated into the Milky Way.



Caldwell 37 or NGC 6885 is an open cluster found 1,950 light years away. Discovered by Herschel this open cluster contains around 20 stars.

M27, The Dumbell Nebula:


Messier 27, the dumbell nebula is a favourite amongst amateur astronomers. It is easily seen even with binoculars. M27 was the first planetary nebula discovered by Messier in July 1764. It is found approximately 1,300 light years away. The central white dwarf star is thought to be the largest white dwarf known. This nebula is expanding rapidly, at about 17 miles a second. Using this expansion rate it was calculated that the nebula is about 9,800 years old.

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