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NGC 7009 (16,558 of 18,816)


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Saturn Nebula

NGC 7009, HD 200516, HIP 103992, PK 037-34 1, PN G037.7-34.5, Bennett 126, Caldwell 55, Saturn Nebula, IV 1, h 2098, GC 4628

RA: 21h 04m 10.88s
Dec: −11° 21′ 48.3″

Con: Aquarius
Ch: MSA:1335, U2:300, SA:16


(reference key)

Type: planetary nebula

Mag: B=12.66, V=12.78

Size: ?
PA: ?

Image gallery

Sketches  (1)

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Photos  (1)

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NGC 7009 was the first deep sky object to be discovered using a reflecting telescope. It was also William Herschel's first discovery. He used a "small 20ft" telescope (12-inch mirror) for this discovery; all his subsequent discoveries were made with the "large 20ft" (18.7-inch aperture).

Historical observations

William Herschel (c.1784)

Synonyms: H IV-001

Discovered on September 7, 1782 by William Herschel with a 12-inch speculum telescope (his "small 20ft"). He called it "vB, nearly round, planetary not well defined disk."

William Herschel observed it in 1784 with his newly completed 18.7-inch f/13 (20 feet) speculum telescope. He wrote: "I have examined it with the powers of 71, 227, 278, 460 and 932; and it follows the laws of magnifying, so that its body is no illusion of light. It is a little oval, and in the 7-feet reflector pretty well defined, but not sharp on the eges. In the 20-feet it is much better defined and has much of a planetary appearance, being all over of an uniform brightness, in which it differs from nebulae: its light seems however to be of the starry nature, which suffers not nearly so much as the planetary disks are known to do, when much magnified."

NGC/IC Dreyer (1888, 1895, 1908)

The NGC records it as "a magnificent object, very bright, small and elliptic."

Birr Castle/Lord Rosse

Lord Rosse coined its popular name, Saturn, after the extending rays, or ansae, which project from the main disc on either side.

Burnham notes that this nebula was one of the first observed by Lord Rosse with his 6-foot reflector, and is described in his 1850 paper "Observations on the Nebulae". Rosse saw the nebula as a fairly uniform luminous disc, reports Burnham, but Rosse was apparently unable to detect the darker centre or the central star. In Rosse's words: "It has ansae which probably indicate a surrounding nebulous ring seen edgeways."

Lassell, W. (1863, 1866)

Sketched and described: [1866MmRAS..36....1L] and "Observations made at Malta on a Planetary Nebula" [1866MmRAS..36....1L].

Webb, T.W. (1893)

In the 5th edition of Webb's Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes it is described as "planetary: somewhat elliptic: very bright for an object of this nature: pale blue; not well defined in 5.5-foot achromatic, but bearing magnifying more like a planet than a common nebula. One of the finest specimens of these extraordinary bodies . . . E. of Rosse finds a very thin ray on each side, which I saw with Huggin's 15-inch achromatic. Lassell detects within it a bright well-defined elliptic ring. Buffham, 9-inch speculum, an opening. Se., who made its diameters 25 and 17 arcseconds, saw it sparkle and thought it a heap of stars."

Burnham, S.W. (1894)

Burnham, S. W. (1894) "Measures of planetary nebulae with the 36-inch equatorial of the Lick Observatory", Pub. Lick Obs., vol 2, p159-167.

Published comments

Doig, P. (1925)

Doig, P. (1925) Notes on the nebulae and clusters in Webb's 'Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes' (Sixth edition, Vol.ii). Part I. M.N.R.A.S., 35(5), 159.

Burnham's Celestial Handbook

Burnham calls the Saturn a "strikingly beautiful object in large telescopes." He notes that it shines with a "vivid green fluorescent glow" The flattened central disc measures about 25" by 17", and is enclosed by a central shell measuring 30" x 26" Burnham calls attention to the conciderable intricate detail in both rings, and notes that the two projecting rays end in bright condensations about 44" apart. These ansae may be glimpsed in a good 10" telescope. An 8-inch at 96x reveals a blue tint to this large, opaque nebula, as well as some elongation.

Sulentic & Tifft (1973)

The RNGC (Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a 8.5 mag planetary nebula.

Photo index

by Jim Lucyk: Sky&Tel. 2/60 p217, Sky&Tel. 6/69 p351, Sky&Tel. 7/69 p17, Sky&Tel. 8/79 p163, Sky&Tel. 9/84 p282, Astronomy mag. 9/86 p106, Deep Sky #12 Fa85 p13, Deep Sky #6 Sp84 p10, Deep Sky #15 Su86 (inside front cover), Deep Sky #15 Su86 p9, Deep Sky #15 Su86 p24, Burnhams V1 p191, Burnhams V2 p1174.

Terzian, Y. (1980)

Q.J. R.astr.Soc vol 21, p82-92 [09.16.1] notes that this planetary shows multiple shell structure, possibly having a triple shell.

Helwan Obs. Bulletin No 9 (1912)

As shown by Lick photographs (Lick 8, pl 64) except that a fifteen minutes exposure showed no signs of 'Saturn's Rings' which are shown on a ten minutes exposure with the Crossley reflector."

Helwan Obs. Bulletin No 15 (1915)

!! Saturn Nebula. Ansae shown to be distinctly brighter at extremities; there is thus a gap between ring and 'planet' as in case of Saturn.

Modern observations

Ancient City Astron.Club (1980)

Listed by the Herschel Club, described as "has a blue tint, shows some elongation, large and opaque. 8-inch, 96x."

Walter Scott Houston

Walter Scott Houston has seen the central star using the 20" refractor at Van Vleck Observatory in Connecticut, but could not see it with his 10-inch reflector. He recommends using high powers to dim the planetary itself, thus accentuating the star. Houston calls this nebula "one of the brightest planetaries in the heavens, and its oval 8th mag disk is easy to spot with small telescopes. ... to see NGC 7009's extensions, or ansae, you'll generally need a 10- or 12-inch telescope. Although I have never seen them in the 4-inch Clark refractor, I glimpsed them with a 4-inch off-axis reflector. I've received reports from amateurs noting the colour of the Saturn nebula as light green, bluish green and bright blue. After a cataract operation .. I see it as brilliant blue, while the other eye - its lens yellowing with age - sees it as deep green."

Hartung, E.J. (1968) Astron.Obj.South.Tel

Hartung notes that a 30cm shows an even light, the faint rays only visible on very clear nights. The nebula is elliptical, about 20x15 arcsec in pa 70 degrees, and no nucleus visible.

Mullaney, J

Mullaney writes: "This 8th mag blue-green egg is a planetary measuring 44 arcseconds by 26 arcseconds. Its name comes from two very faint thin extensions best seen in photographs. Visible only in large amateur telescopes, they are reminiscent of Saturn with its rings seen nearly edge on. The planetary's intense disk has an eerie cast to it, making it a fascinating sight in even the smallest of telescopes. After Herschel found this one (the first of his class IV discoveries) it's easy to see why he pressed on for more!"

Bushnall, Darren (1993)

Darren Bushnall (Hartlepool, Cleveland) observing with a 8.5-inch f/6, writes in the The Webb Society Nebulae and Clusters Section Report No. 11, January 1993: "Visible as a small, elongated, very blue disc at low power. At x180, the two projections showed themselves as small spikes in PA 80 and 260 degrees. Nebular diameter about 35x16 arcseconds."

Harrington, Phil

Phil Harrington (1990, Touring the Universe through Binoculars) says that it is "visible in binoculars as a greenish point of light and is famous for having one of the highest surface brightnesses of any planetary."

Bortle, John (1976)

John Bortle (Webb Society Quarterly Journal, January 1976) using 10x50 binoculars, estimates the visual magnitude as 7.8.

Kaler, James B. (1992)

James B. Kaler ("The Amateur Scientist", Scientific American, May 1992) notes: "Through an 8-inch, Beryl Cadle saw 'a bright bluish , oval nebula, hazy around the edges.' Using a 20-inch, Barbara Wilson observed its ansae and its double-shell structure ... No one, incidentally, saw the central star itself."

Tom Lorenzin

Tom Lorenzin, in the e-version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes: "8M; 25' x 15' extent; bright, blue-green ellipse with detail visible at high-x with N-filter; faint "Ansae" extend E-W; radial brightness non-uniform."

Maloney, Patrick (IAAC)

Your skills: Advanced (many years); Date/time of observation: 20/Jul/1998 0510UT; Location of site: Nebraska Star Party (Lat n35, Elev 3000ft); Site classification: Rural; Sky darkness: 6.2 Limiting magnitude; Seeing: 8 1-10 Seeing Scale (10 best); Moon presence: None - moon not in sky; Instrument: 10" Starsplitter Newtonian; Magnification: x218; Filter(s): ; Object(s): NGC 7009 / Saturn Neb; Category: Planetary nebula.; Class: IV + IIIa; Constellation: Aqr; Data: mag 8.3 size ; Position: RA : DEC :; Description:

Extremely bright. A bluish-green colour was immediately apparent. The nebula is elongated almost E-W. At the tips of the elongation, thin but distinct "ansae" extend beyond the brightest region of the nebula. There is some further detail at the limit of visibility, but the only clearly discernible feature was a dark spot at the eastern end of the nebula.

Gramer, Lew (IAAC)

Observer: Lew Gramer; Your skills: Intermediate; Date and UT of Observation: 1997-07-5/6, 06:30 UT; Location: Savoy, MA, USA (42N, elev 700m); Site classification: rural; Limiting magnitude: 7.3 (zenith), 16.5+ (20", 210x); Seeing: 3 of 10 - pretty good; Moon up: no; Instrument: 20" f/5 Tectron truss-tube dob Newtonian reflector; Magnification: 70x, 210x, 420x; Filters used: None, OIII; Object: ngc 7009 (Saturn nebula); Category: Planetary nebula [4+6]; Constellation: Aqr; Data: mag 8.3 (star 11.5) size 28"x23" (halo 2'?); RA/DE: 21h04m -11o22m

Description: Bright and very easily found by sweeping E of gamma Aqr (which is the bright canaryish star due N of the V in the backbone of Capricorn the goat.) Without a filter, this bizarre planetary actually appeared YELLOWISH at 70x, with clear elongation E-W. At 210x, the elongated disk seen at lower power actually breaks into a separately elongated disk (E-W), and two short faintish "knobs" on the ENE and WSW edges of the disk. Otherwise a near- featureless, bright yellow-green blob. With an OIII filter, the ansae actually seem *shorter*, while the disk appears slightly larger and even more strongly elongated. The N side of the disk face, well above the ansae, appears somewhat brighter, with a slight mottling intermittently visible. At 420x with the OIII, the ansae look essentially unchanged, with the core showing a confirmed darkening N, and some mottling S. Suddenly however, a faint, very irregular halo becomes visible to averted vision, stretching perhaps 2' NE, 2' S, and less than 1' in most other directions from the bright inner disk. With concentration, this halo seemed like it COULD show more detail, especially at higher power. Both halo and core may also be worth a try with a UHC... [Telescope limiting magnitude was found using the Luginbuhl & Skiff _OH_ photometric data for ngc 6802 in Vulpecula - handy!]

] Make that that the Saturn nebula is "easily found by sweeping *West* of nu Aqr", NOT "E of gamma Aqr"! I hate when that happens... :>>>


(PK37-34.1) Mag=8. "Saturn" Nebula in Aquarius: 21h, 4.2m; -11 22' Yep, looks rather like Saturn if you use a little imagination. We have looked at this object so many times in the past 15 years that we did not make a special try while going through the Ferguson list. Yet, just after Thanksgiving in 1995, we had the opportunity of briefly spying this 44"x23" nebula while searching for other objects in the constellation. The "ansae" (after the Latin for handles) surrounding the core, which have little jiggly ends when viewed in a deep photographic exposure, are just at the 'imagination' level in our 8" scope view; yet we have seen them clearly with a 17.5" Dobsonian. Well worth snaring if you are not tired of the object, for it does offer interesting structural detail. With the oxygen- nebular- line filter we would guess that it would be visible right in the middle of the Santa Clara valley, one of the most light polluted regions of the world: the Saturn nebula is BRIGHT!

Steve Coe

Steve Coe, using a 17.5" f/4.5, notes: "is the Saturn Nebula, a famous planetary with outer ansae (wing-like projections) and a bright inner disk. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1782 but Lord Rosse was the first to see the extending ansae. The projections reminded him of the planet Saturn and he gave this object its' nickname. Amateurs have been trying to duplicate that observation ever since. Using the 13" at Cherry Rd. on a 8/10 night; Bright, pretty large, elongated 1.5 X 1 in PA 75, at 220X the central star and ansae are obvious and the nebula is light green. This observation of the Saturn Nebula is made with Helen and Richard Lines' 20" f/6 Newtonian in Meyer, Az. The nebula is bright, small, somewhat elongated and light green at 150X. Raising the power to 225X will show the ansae as faint projections from the bright central section. At 400X the central star is obvious and the ansae stand out more clearly. One of the bright spots along the ansae (Helen Lines calls them wing tanks) is visible at this higher power. All these observations are on a night I rated 7/10 for seeing and transparency and I found that the UHC filter did NOT help with either the central disk or the ansae detail. Several observers, myself included saw the nebula as light green, without the UHC filter installed."

Brian Skiff


POSS: ansae in pa76; m13 * at 1'.6 in pa344; m15 * at 46" in pa50.

15cm - big & br. elliptical 25"x20". smooth pale green egg. HM notes dk notches [faint extensions?] at ends but BS sees none. HM/BS, 23Jun1971, FtL.

- easy. oval w/flattened ends, almost rectangular. central brightening. BS.

- br intense neb. 80x/165x/295x: basic oval elong in pa65, 40"x25". 165x and 295x show short ansae, SWrn one more obvious and seems two-thirds length of main body. m14 * 3' NNW. annularity fleeting w/o [OIII] filter, which shows annulus clearly w/fntr well-def outer collar. interior br but no cen *. ansae better vis w/[OIII] filter. BS, 8Sep1988, Anderson Mesa.

25cm - 305x: elong E-W, greenish. disk is fat football. ansae are faint at each end and as long as disk. m14 * 2' N. BS.

30cm - 40"x35" w/haze to 1'. pa80. ansae are 5" projections E&W. E 50" is m14.5 *. 2' N is m13.8 *. core unevenly br w/br curds on N. dkr area on E side of core. CBL, Roof.

Paul Alsing

82-inch at McDonald - Observing Report

[amastro] posting, Sat Nov 25, 2006

82" telescope, McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, USA

f/13.7, 35mm Televue Panoptic (5' fov, 812x)

After previewing photos of this guy, I expected to see lots of intricate detail, but it was not to be. It was, however, a wonderful and unique object. The elongated central portion looked just like a rugby football, with a baseball attached to each end, the whole thing being very bright. I didn't notice a central star, but this object was observed early in the evening, before the seeing settled down, and it was hard to remember details because I kept tripping over my jaw, which was still near the floor. It took a while to get it under control... ;-)

Contemporary observations

Gabriel Giust

1995 June 19

8-inch Newtonian, 66x: 1995-06-19 "Small and very bright; uniform brightness. Looks like a dim unfocussed star. Slightly oval in the east-west direction." [Gabriel Giust, San Isidro, Argentina]

Auke Slotegraaf

2016 October 30, Sunday

Location: Night Sky Caravan Farm, Bonnievale.

Date: 2016 Oct 30, Sunday.

Time: 23:10 SAST

Telescope: Little Martin (4-inch f/6.5 Celestron refractor)


19-mm Panoptic (35x) and 11-mm Nagler+ Powermate (150x): A star, elongated, not nebulous.

1997 November 29

1997 November 29/30, Sat/Sun: Jonkershoek, seeing 3, transparency 3, sky darkness 4, lim.mag. at south pole 6.0 (naked eye), 10.7 (binoculars at pole) Strong SE wind. "Seen as a small star, as it sets behind Stellenbosch mountain. Two totally different objects."

Magda Streicher

(no date)

Location: Campsite (South 23 16 East 29 26).

Sky conditions: Clear, steadiness good.

Instrument: Meade 8 inch, Super wide-angle, 18mm eyepiece; 36.2' fov

DSO Report N

Large, bright elliptical, pale blue planetary nebula, getting much brighter to the middle. Standing out beautiful against the background with a multitude of stars in the field. Maybe a bid uneven with structure?

(no date)

Alldays (22.50S, 20.12E, 770m).

16-inch f/10 SCT (EP: 2-inch 40mm SW 102x 26' fov; 2-inch 32mm SW 127x 32' fov; 2-inch 14mm UW 290x 17' fov; 2-inch 8.8mm UW 462x 11' fov)

The Saturn Nebula is one of the most breathtaking planetary nebula's in space. Relatively large, bright elliptical in an east to west direction, getting much brighter to the middle. The pale blue hue deepens to turquoise with lengthier observation. Soft and evenly bright with a somewhat brighter indication to the centre. The name "Saturn Nebula" is probably derived to the fact of the spreading out of the two thin prominent extended spikes on the western and eastern sides (290x and 462x). Standing out beautifully against the background with a multitude of stars in the field. Three outstanding stars framed the northeast border in the field of view. The Saturn Nebula reminds me of an alien ship in the dark of night approaching us. Observations of Planetary nebula's are been shared with special friends around the world. Use filters these days that brings out the planetary to right in front of my eyes. The blue colour is nice.

Richard Ford

2016, July, 2nd



Sky Conditions:The fainter parts of the Milky Way are barely visible.Haziness only visible on the horizon.Atmosphere stable with little interference.

Instrument:12-inch Dobsonian.

This planetary nebula is oval and well defined at 167x and at 214x this nebula's diffuse ring-like projections are just visible.This planetary nebula has a bluish colour in appearance.This planetary nebula measures 1.6'x 1.2'.Chart No:31,NSOG Vol.1.

2010 ,July 3rd Saturday



Telescope:12"-inch Dobsonian Reflector Telescope.

Eyepieces:9mm eyepiece.

7mm eyepiece.

Sky Conditions:The fainter parts of the milky way are barely visible.

Transparency of the Sky:Haziness is only visible on the horizon.

Seeing:Atmosphere stable with little interference.

Limiting Magnitude:4.5.

Object Name:Saturn Nebula.

First Impression:Planetary Nebula.



Chart Number:No.13(Extract taken out of "Atlas of the Night Sky").

Size:9mm Eyepiece:Field of View:15'/9=1.6'.

7mm Eyepiece:Field of View:15'/8.5=1.7'.

1.6'+ 1.7'=3.3'.


Size in Arc Minutes:1.6'.


Major Axis:1.6'.


Minor Axis:0.8'.

Planetary Nebula is 1.6'*0.8'.


Brightness Profile:High Surface Brightness.

Challenge Rating:Easy to observe in a dark sky under a large telescope.



This planetary is slightly oval and well defined. At 214*,the disk of this elusive planetary nebula's ring-like projections almost resembles the planet Saturn.This planetary nebula has a bluish colour.

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