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The Cheeseburger Nebula
Planetary Nebula
aka NGC 7026, PN G089.0+00.3, PK 089-0.1, ARO 59
RA: 21h06m18.2s Dec: +47°51'05" (Cygnus)
Integrated Visual Magnitude: 12
Angular Diameter: 25"
Mean Surface Brightness: 18.7 Mag/arc-secē
Distance 4500 ly

Minimum requirements to detect: ? under dark skies


The Cheeseburger Nebula (NGC 7026) at first appears as just another tiny smudge of light, but in a large aperture instrument at high magnification it reveals what I feel is one of the most incredible sights in the night sky.

In telescopes 12-inches or smaller this planetary appears very small, hazy and indistinct.  On nights of excellent seeing tantalizing hints of detail may be glimpsed.

The image at right doesn't really do it justice.  This image is somewhat overexposed, showing the entire extent of the nebula rather than the more prominent inner region that is seen visually.

In my 18-inch f/4.5 Dob at 94x this PN was visible as a hazy star; nothing special.  But when I changed to 430x, I got one big surprise!  The comment in my log reads, "Wow!"  Here lay not one highly elongated planetary, but two!   It appeared to me as two nearly identical lobes, long and thin, paired side-by-side in the long direction.  The ends of each lobe appeared somewhat pointed.  Most bi-polar planetary nebulae have lobes that extend away from one-another, but in this case they lie side-by-side separated by a narrow strip of darkness.  It is these two lobes which lend the nebula its name, appearing like the buns of a Cheeseburger.

Embedded on the middle of the outer edge of each lobe is a bright knot.  These bright spots oppose each other; it's as if the lobes are mirror images, except that when you look close there are many subtle differences.  One of the bright knots is more stellar and somewhat brighter than the other, for instance.  With averted vision I could glimpse a haze surrounding the two lobes.  The primary effect of the OIII filter was to enhanced this outer envelope, which is also elongated in the same direction as the twin lobes. 

The Cheeseburger has to be seen to be appreciated.  It will definitely find a place on my favorites list!


The field in an 6-inch f/8 at 135x.  North is down and east is to the right.

Links:
Detailed HST image of NGC 7026
 

Millennium Star Atlas Vol III Chart 1106
Sky Atlas 2000 Chart 9
Uranometria 2000 Vol I Chart 85
Herald-Bobroff Astroatlas B-05 C-03