This evening the moonlight disturbs the least and the conditions on paper are ideally suited to view this special light phenomenon. Read here how this brightly colored star nebula was formed and whether clear weather is expected.
The moonlight isn’t a bummer during the peak night of the Helix Nebula, but a clear view is unfortunately not on the schedule. Occasional veils of clouds drift over and remnants of the daytime clouds are still present. Still, it clears up regularly and these are prime times to view the Helix Nebula. You don’t need your raincoat or umbrella when you go to look, because it stays dry. During clear spells it cools down quickly to about 10 degrees. If you stand or sit still for a longer period of time, a warm sweater comes in handy!
The best viewing tips
The star nebula reaches its highest point above the horizon around 11:30 PM. To get your eyes used to the dark, you need about 15 minutes extra time. Ordinary binoculars are enough to see the Helix Nebula as a green smudge. The Helix Nebula is about the size of half the moon. With a telescope, details such as the colored ring emerge.
At its peak, the nebula is about ten degrees above the horizon. You must then look in a southerly direction. In open fields you have the best view because trees and buildings otherwise stand in the way. The light from the moon is therefore hardly disturbing, but light pollution can throw a spanner in the works. A dark and open place is therefore most suitable.
Apps on your phone or tablet are useful for orienting yourself. Photo: AdobeStock / Lukas
With apps such as SkyView you can easily orientate yourself in the environment. The Helix Nebula can be seen in the constellation Aquarius. During the night the wind swells and the clouds increase from the west. It is therefore better not to wait too long for the best view of the Helix Nebula.
This is how a star nebula is formed
The Helix Nebula is a star nebula that formed about 10,610 years ago when a medium-sized star had used up all its energy at its core. The star then hurls its outermost layer into space. The interior remains behind and emits radiation for a while, lighting up the fragments of the star in all kinds of bright colors. According to astronomers, our sun will also form a star nebula in just over five billion years.
Main photo: AdobeStock/pav1007