October deep sky photos
Explore the depths of the deep October sky with these amazing photos taken by photographers and friends of EarthSky. You too can see the Helix Nebula in Aquarius, the Orion and Flame Nebulae in Orion, and the Heart and Soul Nebulae in Cassiopeia from locations in the dark sky.
The helix nebula
NGC 7293, the catalog name for the Helix Nebula, is located in the constellation Aquarius. The Helix Nebula glows at a magnitude of 7.3. It’s bright enough to be spotted in small telescopes or even binoculars. Just keep in mind that this nebula’s glowing gas is rather spread out, about half the size of a full moon, making it a challenge to watch.
The Helix Nebula is one of the largest and closest planetary nebulae to us. A planetary nebula is made up of gas and dust expelled from a star at the end of its life. The Helix Nebula provides a glimpse into the future of our own sun, having reached the red giant phase and started releasing its gases. The star seen in the center of the Helix nebula is the one responsible for the gas flow. If it was the sun, our planet would be in the nebula. The sun and star of the Helix Nebula will eventually end their lives as white dwarfs.
The Hubble Space Telescope took a famous photo of the Helix Nebula in 2003. Email chains at the time called this nebula the Eye of god. You might recognize this photo as one of the decor items inside the TV show apartment The Big Bang Theory. It has been hung in the alcove of Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment for many years.
Orion and Flame Nebulae
Look for these nebulae in the constellation Orion in October. Orion rises in the east late in the evening. The Orion Nebula is part of Orion’s sword. It can be seen as a blurry spot without any optical aid. The Flame Nebula sits next to the lowest star in Orion’s belt, Alnitak. Can you spot the Horse’s Head Nebula in this photo as well?
Nebulae of the heart and soul
These beautiful nebulae are found in the constellation Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia is an easy to spot constellation shaped like a letter W. The Heart Nebula is sometimes referred to as the Running Dog Nebula. What does this region of star formation look like to you?
Conclusion: EarthSky readers have shared incredible deep sky photographs with us. The Helix nebula in Aquarius, the Orion and Flame nebulae in Orion, and the Heart and Soul nebulae in Cassiopeia are excellent viewing targets for October.