ξ Serpentis

Xi Serpentis is the star the farthest to the south in the Serpens asterism. It forms the base of the tail, that rises to the northeast.

The star on the western edge of your field of view, nu Serpentis is a main-sequence white dwarf, only three times the radius of the Sun.

Nu Serpentis is a binocular binary (Sh 247), although there is some question whether the two stars are a true binary or only optical. Nevertheless, their subtle colour contrast, which has been described as ‘pale sea-green and lilac’, means the two are deserving of some attention: 4.3, 9.4; 25º, 45.4".


With nu Serpentis centred, move east four binocular fields; you are half-way into Scutum now, with the Messier object M16 just inside the Serpens border.

M16 is known as the Star Queen Nebula, a name given it by Robert Burnham, who waxes quite poetically in his description of the nebula: pp 1783-92. Also called on occasion the Eagle Nebula. Large telescopes are needed, as with most nebulae, to bring out the textures, although one won't find the wonderfully dramatic view that photography provides.

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