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The Cosmos with NGC 6960

The Veil Nebula is a diffuse nebula located in the northern constellation Cygnus, the Swan.

Also known as Witch’s Broom Nebula, Bridal Veil Nebula, Cirrus Nebula, or Filamentary Nebula, it constitutes the visible parts of the Cygnus Loop, a supernova remnant in Cygnus. It is located at an approximate distance of 1,470 light years from Earth.

The Veil Nebula has three main parts: the Eastern Veil, the Western Veil, and Fleming’s Triangle (Pickering’s Triangle). It has the designations NGC 6960, NGC 6992, NGC 6995, NGC 6974, and NGC 6979 in the New General Catalogue, and the southernmost part of the Eastern Veil Nebula was assigned the catalogue designation IC 1340.

The Veil Nebula is a frequent object of study for astronomers because it is large, located relatively close to Earth, and makes a good example of a middle-aged supernova remnant.

For amateur astronomers, the nebula makes one of the most spectacular objects in the northern sky.

Different regions of the Veil Nebula have different nicknames. The Western Veil Nebula is also known as the Witch’s Broom, while the Eastern Veil is sometimes called the Network Nebula.

The Veil Nebula lies a few degrees to the south of the star Epsilon Cygni, also known as Gienah. Gienah is one of the stars of the Northern Crossand marks the right wing of the celestial Swan.

The Western Veil Nebula, NGC 6960, is the easiest component to find as it lies behind the star 52 Cygni, which is bright enough to be seen without binoculars. The star is not physically associated with the supernova remnant.

The Eastern Veil Nebula is also relatively easy to find. NGC 6974 and NGC 6979 can be seen as knots along the nebula’s northern border, while Fleming’s Triangle is significantly fainter and harder to observe.

This image is a stunning close-up of the Veil Nebula – the shattered remains of a supernova that exploded some 5-10,000 years ago. The image provides a beautiful view of the delicate, wispy structure resulting from this cosmic explosion. Also known as Cygnus Loop, the Veil Nebula is located in the constellation of Cygnus, the Swan, and is about 1,500 light-years away from Earth.

This small portion of the Veil Nebula is located in the larger segment seen in its western part (the top left corner of the large ground-based overview image). The entire structure spans about 3 degrees, corresponding to about 6 full moons.
The image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). The colour is produced by composite of three different images. The different colours indicate emission from different kinds of atoms excited by the shock: blue shows oxygen, green shows sulphur, and red shows hydrogen. Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgment: J. Hester (Arizona State University)

Even though the Veil Nebula is relatively bright with an apparent magnitude of 7.0, it stretches over a large area and its surface brightness is pretty low, which makes it difficult to see without an OIII filter.

The filter isolates the wavelength of light from doubly ionized oxygen, allowing astronomers to see the nebula using any telescope.

While the nebula can be found using binoculars under very dark skies, the intricate lacework that it is known for can be seen in a 200 mm (8-inch) or larger telescope.

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