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Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) Facts and How to Find

Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) Facts and How to Find Planetary Nebula in Draco

Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is a planetary nebula object of interest in space. It lies at a distance of about 3,262.00 light years away in the constellation of Draco.

It is also referred to as NGC(6543) in the New General Catalogue. This is a list of deep space objects that was compiled by John Louis Emil Dreyer in 1888 in an update to John Herschel earlier catalogue.

The Planetary Nebula's location is 17h 58m 33s (R.A.) and +66d 38` 0 (Dec.).

Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) has a radius of 25,000 light years or to put it another way, it has a diameter of 50,000 light years. It would take a space ship 50,000 years travelling at the speed of light to get from one side to the other.

The Cats Eye nebula has a Wolf-Rayet star at its centre which is 10,000 brighter than our own star, the Sun. It is expelling about 20 trillion tons of mass per second. The stellar winds are believed to be around 1,900 km/s. Constellation Guide

Observations indicate that the star at the centre ejects its mass in a series of pulses at 1500 year intervals. The resulting dust shells contain as much mass as all the planets in , still less than 1% the mass of the Sun. E.S.A.

The nebula was first discovered by German born British astronomer Sir William Herschel on February 15th, 1786. Sir William is more famous for the discovery of the seventh planet Uranus. The Cat's Eye Nebula Spectrum was the first planetary nebula to be investigated by William Huggins, an amateur astronomer. It demonstrated that planetary nebulas were gaseous and not stellar in nature. Wiki

It was once thought that dust shells like Cats Eye was rare however, its been proved wrong. In 2013, Martin A. Guerrero, of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia in Spain was able to prove otherwise and that shells were likely to be the rule rather than the exception. Hubble

It is not the only nebula that is associated with cats, there is also the Cats Paw Nebula in the constellation of Scorpius but they are not linked, they are too far away from one another.

How to find and see the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)

The site assumes that you are viewing from London in the Northern Hemisphere and from Sydney in the Southern Hemisphere and are looking at the sky about 9 p.m. If you are looking at another time or location, you will need to adjust for your location.

Northern Hemisphere

This nebula is available all year round in Miami and north of that location. In Miami, the worst time of the year to actually see the nebula is February and March when it is lowest on the horizon but if you can wait then it should be easier to see. The further north you go, the easier it should be to see it. It is not far away from the Ursa Minor in terms of where to see in the sky not in distance. You need to look in a northern direction.

Southern Hemisphere

In Darwin, Australia, you can only see this nebula in August and September when it is visible just above the horizon. If you are in Sydney, you will not be able to see the nebula at all.

Travel Time to Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)

The time it will take to travel to this star is dependent on how fast you are going. U.G. has done some calculations as to how long it will take going at differing speeds. A note about the calculations, when I'm talking about years, I'm talking non-leap years only (365 days).

The New Horizons space probe is the fastest probe that we've sent into space at the time of writing. Its primary mission was to visit Pluto which at the time of launch (2006), Pluto was still a planet.

DescriptionSpeed (m.p.h.)Time (years)
Walking4546,887,860,949.50
Car12018,229,595,364.98
Airbus A3807362,972,216,635.60
Speed of Sound (Mach 1)767.2692,851,088,006.68
Concorde (Mach 2)1,534.541,425,542,145.40
New Horizons Probe33,00066,289,437.69
Speed of Light670,616,629.003,262.00

Fact File


NameCat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)
TypePlanetary Nebula
NGC Id6543
ConstellationDraco
Right Ascension17h 58m 33s
Declination+66d 38` 0
Distance (Lt.Yr)3,262
Radius (Lt.Yr)25,000.00
CoprightN.A.S.A


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