The Night Sky: Delphinus, Sagitta, and the Coat Hanger

A Dolphin, an Arrow, a Coat Hanger, and a Dumbbell are grouped high in the west after dark.


The constellation Delphinus (Latin for dolphin) is seen arching in the left side of the picture. I took this picture in September from a dark site in upstate Connecticut. Toward the center of the picture is Sagitta (Latin for arrow). Both Delphinus and Sagitta are among the smallest of the constellations.

The Coat Hanger (marked with a ‘C’) is seen upside down in the wide angle picture. A close up picture of the Coat Hanger is also attached. The close up picture has been flipped and lines added to better see its shape. The Coat Hanger is not a constellation, it is an asterism. An asterism is a random group of stars that forms a ‘picture’. Do you see a Coat Hanger? The Coat Hanger stars are about 400 light years away. It can be found with binoculars.

The Dumbbell Nebula is 1,300 light-years away and is one of the brightest planetary nebula in the sky. I took the attached close up of the Dumbbell nebula through a telescope. You may remember that the name planetary nebula is misleading. It comes from the fact that in small telescopes, planetary nebulae resemble planets. Just like the Ring Nebula, the Dumbbell nebula is the result of a star shedding its outer layers in a violent eruption.

Delphinus, Sagitta, the Coat Hanger and the Dumbbell nebula all have the Milky Way in the background running from bottom to the top of the picture. Billions of distant stars in the Milky Way result in a band of milky light that arches across the sky. Just a small segment of the Milky Way arch is represented in this picture.

Clear Skies!

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