The Bridal Veil
nebula is a large and complex, spanning over 3o.
The expelled remnants of a long ago supernova, it can be seen strewn
all about the region on long exposure photos, but it is the two
brightest parts that are typically seen visually. The brighter,
eastern portion can be seen in binoculars from a dark site as a long
curving hazy streak of light. Experienced observers under truly dark
skies may be able to detect the western portion as well.
These nebulae are
large, so use your lowest power eyepiece at the telescope. Robert
Burnham Jr. described the view of the eastern portion (NGC 6992) in
six to eight-inch scopes as "looking like a miniature Milky Way
in itself in the field. It appears as a faint curved arc like a
ghostly white rainbow, over one degree in length."
The western portion
(NGC 6960) is more difficult, but can be observed in a 6-inch under
dark skies as a faint haze. Owners of larger scopes may wish to try
to see the illusive central portion of the nebula, which is found about part way between the two main halves. This
nebulosity is both fainter and more spread out, making it quite
A UHC or OIII filter
can really bring out the detail in the nebula. I was astounded when
I first saw the Veil in an 18-inch with an OIII filter. The
intricate filaments seen in photographs became obvious! One could
spend hours following the arcs. A UHC filter produced similar
results but the contrast with the background sky was not as
enhanced. With the filter in place the nebulosity between the two
main arcs became readily apparent.
One night I spent
some time looking at the NGC 6960 in my 18-inch with an OIII filter
in place. It looked unreal, shining with a steely, cold gray glow.
It appeared as if it had been shaded in with shiny pencil led onto
deep black paper. Tiny tendrils appeared in the brighter portions
and faint nebulosity was found throughout the field. I was
particularly struck by the north end, which comes to a point like
the blade of a shiny steel sword. The south end of NGC 6960 widens
until it bursts into several filaments that reminded me of the
tentacles of a squid.
the Veil is the
most beautiful sight in the sky.
The Veil can be
found about 4o
to the south of Epsilon Cygni. The field of view
shown here is about 6o.
Stars are shown to 11th magnitude.
The view above is of the western
loop in a 6-inch telescope at 50x. More difficult to see than its sister
half, it can still be a good place to start because it is easy to
find the correct star field due to the presence of the 4th magnitude
star 52 Cyg. North is down, East is to the right.
This image from the
Digital Sky Survey shows a 3o
x 3o region
about the nebula. North is up, east is left.