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M20 – Trifid Nebula

The Trifid nebula is a colorful combination of different types of nebulae that unite to create a celestial work of art.  This object is a true favourite of mine, and worthy of extra attention through any telescope.

The Trifid Nebula - DSLR Astrophotography

M20 – The Trifid Nebula – DSLR Astrophotography image by Trevor Jones

M20 – The Trifid Nebula

Photographed on: August 2, 3, 8, 2016

Total Exposure Time: 2 Hours, 54 Minutes (58 x 3 Minute Subs @ ISO 1600)
Mount: Sky-Watcher HEQ-5 Pro
Camera: Canon 450D (modified)
Telescope: Explore Scientific ED102 CF

Guided with PHD Guiding
Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Processed in Adobe Photoshop CC

This photograph was acquired over several nights in August 2016.  For a behind-the-scenes look at how I shot this nebula from my backyard, please watch the video below:


A stunning sight through a telescope

The Trifid Nebula is a fan favorite among amateur astronomers

The Trifid Nebula is also classified as NGC 6514 in the New General Catalogue.  This colorful nebula is an H II region located in the busy constellation, Sagittarius. It’s “Trifid” name means ‘divided into three lobes’. This deep-sky object is a unique combination of an open star cluster; an emission nebula, a reflection nebula and a dark nebula!  The prominent ‘gaps’ within the emission nebula are responsible for the “trifid” appearance.


How to find the Trifid Nebula

Through a telescope, the Trifid Nebula appears as a bright and peculiar object, and is a favorite of many amateur astronomers!  To find it, you will need to point your binoculars or telescope towards the Teapot asterism in the constellation Sagittarius.  The shape of the celestial teapot is a recognized star pattern, but not an official constellation.  The teapot shape should become obvious to your eyes if our sky is dark enough!

From mid-northern latitudes, the Teapot  lies due south, and is highest in the sky around midnight by early July.  Because Sagittarius doesn’t rise very high in our Northern sky, you may have to deal with trees or other obstructions that are blocking your view.  You’ll want to get somewhere with a low horizon facing South if possible.


How to Find the Trifid Nebula

Location of the Tirifd Nebula in Sagittarius


Star-hopping from the Teapot

As seen in the star chart above, you can use the stars on the right-hand side of the Teapot asterism to star-hop over to the Trifid Nebula.  It may help if you draw an imaginary line form the bottom star in the spout, through the middle of the two stars above it.  You will likely notice the bright nebula known as M8 – The Lagoon Nebula first, but the Trifid is just above it.  Needless to say, this portion of the Milky Way is an absolute pleasure to view through binoculars or small telescope.

Here is a photo I snapped from my backyard in August 2015:

lagoon and trifid nebula - wide field photo

The Lagoon Nebula and Trifid Nebula appear very close together in the night sky


View more Nebulae and Galaxies in the Photo Gallery