Brightest nebulae

Here are the brightest nebulae in the night sky, ordered by constellation. Brightness, when applied to extended diffuse objects like nebulae, can be a tricky word. Apparent magnitude is listed, but should be used cautiously when applied solely for brightness as perceived by the human eye. For nebulae, "brightness" is a function of magnitude, surface brightness, and apparent size. This is because apparent magnitude applies most accurately to brightness for point objects like stars. Nebulae have an apparent size in the night sky, so their magnitude is "spread out" across it. The larger the nebula, the dimmer it appears, all other things being equal. See the sidebar for more information.

Also see 150 notable nebulae.

Top 10 best nebulae for telescopes

These are the 10 best and brightest nebulae for telescopes, ordered by approximate awesomness:

1. Eta Carinae Nebula (Caldwell 92)

Emission nebula in Carina
southern hemisphere  |  magnitude 3

2. Orion Nebula (Messier 42)

Diffuse nebula in Orion
northern hemisphere  |  magnitude 4

3. Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8)

Emission nebula in Sagittarius
southern hemisphere  |  magnitude 6

4. Omega Nebula (Messier 17)

Emission nebula in Sagittarius
southern hemisphere  |  magnitude 6

5. Dumbbell Nebula (Messier 27)

Planetary nebula in Vulpecula
northern hemisphere  |  magnitude 7.5

6. Ring Nebula (Messier 57)

Planetary nebula in Lyra
northern hemisphere  |  magnitude 8.8

7. Crab Nebula (Messier 1)

Supernova remnant in Taurus
northern hemisphere  |  magnitude 8.4

8. Eskimo Nebula

Planetary nebula in Gemini
southern hemisphere  |  magnitude 10.1

9. Cat's Eye Nebula (Caldwell 6)

Planetary nebula in Draco
northern hemisphere  |  magnitude 9.8

10. Helix Nebula (Caldwell 63)

Planetary nebula in Aquarius
southern hemisphere  |  magnitude 7.3

Bright Messier nebulae

Here are the brightest nebulae listed in the Messier catalog, ordered by constellation. Messier nebulae are predominately found in the northern hemisphere.

De Mairan's Nebula
Messier M43
9 Orion
Orion Nebula
Messier M42
4 Orion
Little Dumbbell Nebula
Messier M76
10.1 Perseus
Lagoon Nebula
Messier M8
6 Sagittarius
Omega Nebula
Messier M17
6 Sagittarius
Trifid Nebula
Messier M20
6.3 Sagittarius
Eagle Nebula
Messier M16
6 Serpens Claudia
Crab Nebula
Messier M1
8.4 Taurus
Owl Nebula
Messier M97
10 Ursa Major
Dumbbell Nebula
Messier M27
7.5 Vulpecula

Bright Caldwell galaxies

Here are the brightest nebulae listed in the Caldwell catalog, ordered by constellation. Caldwell nebulae are predominately found in the southern hemisphere.

Helix Nebula
Caldwell C63
7.3 Aquarius
Saturn Nebula
Caldwell C55
8 Aquarius
Flaming Star Nebula
Caldwell C31
6 Auriga
Eta Carinae Nebula
Caldwell C92
3 Carina
Bubble Nebula
Caldwell C11
10 Casseopeia
Bow-Tie Nebula
Caldwell C2
12 Cepheus
Cave Nebula
Caldwell C9
7.7 Cepheus
Iris Nebula
Caldwell C4
7 Cepheus
R crA Nebula
Caldwell C68
Corona Australis
Caldwell C99
Blinking Planetary
Caldwell C15
8.8 Cygnus
Cocoon Nebula
Caldwell C19
7.2 Cygnus
Crescent Nebula
Caldwell C27
7.4 Cygnus
E. Veil Nebula
Caldwell C33
7 Cygnus
North America Nebula
Caldwell C20
4 Cygnus
W. Veil Nebula
Caldwell C34
7 Cygnus
Tarantula Nebula
Caldwell C103
8.2 Dorado
Cat's Eye Nebula
Caldwell C6
8.1 Draco
Eskimo Nebula
Caldwell C39
9.2 Gemini
Ghost of Jupiter
Caldwell C59
7.8 Hydra
Hubble?s Variable Nebula
Caldwell C46
9 Monoceros
Rosette Nebula
Caldwell C49
9 Monoceros
Bug Nebula
Caldwell C69
9.6 Scorpius
Eight Burst Nebula
Caldwell C74
9.4 Vela

Bright Herschel nebulae

Here are the brightest nebulae listed in the Herschel 400 catalog, ordered by constellation. Herschel nebulae are generally fainter and harder to spot than Messier and Caldwell nebulae.

Saturn Nebula
NGC 7009
8 Aquarius
Bow-Tie Nebula
NGC 40
11 Cepheus
Blinking Planetary
NGC 6826
10 Cygnus
Fetus Nebula
NGC 7008
13 Cygnus
N. American Nebula
NGC 7000
4 Cygnus
Blue Flash Nebula
NGC 6905
12 Delphinus
Cats Eye Nebula
NGC 6543
9 Draco
Eskimo Nebula
NGC 2392
10 Gemini
Ghost of Jupiter
NGC 3242
9 Hydra
Little Ghost Nebula
NGC 6369
13 Ophiuchus
Flame Nebula
NGC 2024
10 Orion
Lost Jewel of Orion
NGC 1980
Little Dumbbell Nebula
NGC 651
12 Perseus
Box Nebula
NGC 6445
13 Sagittarius
Little Gem Nebula
NGC 6818
10 Sagittarius