See Messier 20, the Trifid Nebula | 8/19/2019 | Bruce McClure
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The Trifid Nebula (Messier 20 or M20) is one of the many binocular treasures in the direction of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Its name means divided into three lobes, although you’ll likely need a telescope to see why. On a dark, moonless night – from a rural location – you can star-hop upward from the spout of the Teapot in Sagittarius to another famous nebula, the Lagoon, also known as Messier 8. In the same binocular field, look for the smaller and fainter Trifid Nebula as a fuzzy patch above the Lagoon.

To locate this nebula, first find the famous Teapot asterism in the western half of Sagittarius. The Teapot is just a star pattern, not an entire constellation. Nonetheless, most people have an easier time envisioning the Teapot than the Centaur that Sagittarius is supposed to represent. How can you find it? First, be sure you’re looking on a dark night, from a rural location.

Southward - Evening - Earth - Northern - Hemisphere

Then, look for southward in the evening from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. If you’re in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere, look northward, closer to overhead, and turn the charts below upside-down. Want a more exact location for the Teapot in Sagittarius? We hear good things about Stellarium, which will let you set a date and time from your exact location on the globe.

You’ll find M20 in a dark sky near the spout of the Teapot in Sagittarius. Notice the 3 westernmost (right-hand) stars of the Teapot spout … then get ready to star-hop! Use binoculars and go about twice the spout’s distance upward until a bright hazy object glares at you in your binoculars. That’s the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8), which is actually visible to the unaided eye on a dark, moonless night. Once you locate the Lagoon Nebula, look for the...
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