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The Veil Nebula
Supernova Remnant
aka Bridal Veil, Cygus Loop, NGC 6960, Sh 2-103, LBN 191
Integrated Visual Magnitude: ~7
Apparent Diameter: 3o
Distance: 10 Mly

Minimum requirements to view: ordinary binoculars and very dark skies

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 difficult.

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.

For me, 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.


Millennium Star Atlas Vol III Chart 1169
Sky Atlas 2000 Chart 9
Uranometria 2000 Vol I Chart 120