I've recently been seeing a bunch of pictures of nebulae and I'm just fascinated by their beauty and complexity. Is there any kind of telescope that would make it possible to view it from here on Earth?


3 Answers 3


Yes, indeed! Many nebulae are visible from Earth in a small and cheap telescope, and even to the naked eye (if you are standing in a sufficiently dark place).

In fact, yesterday I was watching the Orion Nebula with my 4.5" telescope (which is worth $200 or so) from my apartment in the middle of Copenhagen.

The term "nebula" is a bit of a… well, nebulous term, as it covers several distint phenonomena, for instance:

  • Galaxies, e.g. the Andromeda Galaxy (though this is an old expression)
  • (Open) stellar clusters, e.g. the Eagle Nebula
  • Globular clusters, e.g. 47 Tucanae
  • Planetary nebulae, e.g. the Eskimo Nebula
  • Supernova remnants, e.g. the Crab Nebula

However, you should be aware that even in a large and expensive telescope, the nebulae do not look anything like the beautiful images you find on the internet. With your eye, you will merely see diffuse, whitish clouds. The beautiful colors arise only in images taken through telescopes with long exposure times. If you want to make such pictures, you will need a telescope with a motor (since the telescope must follow the rotation of the sky) and the possibility of attaching a camera to it.

People are often disappointed when shown a nebula through a telescope. I think the beauty of it lies in knowing what it is that you are seeing, knowing for instance that it lies 600 lightyears away, that you are looking 600 years back in time, and that stars are right now being formed there.

Googling something like "nebulae visible in a small telescope" should get you started. Good luck!

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your help dude! I live in Texas so driving a little bit to find someplace that's dark with no pollution and clear skies shouldn't be a problem! Also, wordplay ftw! #DanishPeopleAreCool $\endgroup$
    – Y.G.
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 10:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @pela has given a great answer, but I just wanted to confirm that it is totally possible to view Nebula without a lot of kit. I've only recently discovered the pleasure of looking at the Orion Nebula on these clear crisp nights in the UK (it's easy to find!). I would love to take photos of it, but that is a whole different game. $\endgroup$
    – Mashton
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, you're welcome. I'm actually very little of an observer, and I didn't know that the Orion Nebula was visible to the naked eye, as @Mashton mentions. Even if you don't have a telescope, you can still get very nice pictures with a normal camera on a tripod. Try with an exposure time of a few minutes. If it's longer, the motion of the sky will "draw" objects and blur the image. This can create a cool effect for stars, though, as their color becomes easily visible, and you can see the temperature: Blue stars are hot, red stars are colder. $\endgroup$
    – pela
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 11:55

Some filters also help improve the view as seen through the telescope. Even a simple and cheap red filter would help,as it will remove most part of the light pollution spectrum and will let Ha reach your eye :)


As previously mentioned, most nebulous Deep Sky Objects are difficult to view with a traditional eyepiece.

Electronic Eyepieces are a recent technological development that replaces the traditional eyepiece with a small camera. The cameras image is viewed on a monitor screen instead of through the eyepiece.

These cameras are much more sensitive than the eye. Like a microphone and speaker amplifies sound, the camera and screen amplify the visual signal. The cameras can be adapted to any telescope that uses 1.25" and 2" eyepieces.

The CCTV type camera signal can be viewed on an analog screen like a TV or on a computer equipped with a analog to digital signal adapter commonly refereed to as a Frame Grabber. The USB equipped cameras have to be viewed with a computer.

The electronic view like the eyepiece view is dependent on several factors. Telescope size and speed, sky conditions and camera sensitivity.

I use several Mallincam cameras in my observatory. They are mounted on a 10" f10 SCT, a 5" f5.6 SCT, a Canon 20mm DSLR lense and a fourth camera that I use with a variety of Canon SLR and DSLR zoom and fixed lenses.

I can easily view all the Messier objects visible at my Latitude with any of those cameras/lens combinations. As for what is visible with my 10" SCT, I made up a list of 26761 assorted Deep Sky Objects for a PC viewing list. One way or the other any of those objects that are above the horizon will be visible with my cameras. That text document list can be viewed or downloaded at


The Mallincam iO group has a photo section with thousands of images made with Mallincam electronic eyepiece cameras


A Google with the term "electronic eyepiece" will result in several pages of information about other brands of cameras.

The Mallincams are not available through regular sources but are sold directly from the manufacturer. Google "Mallincam" for that information.


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