|Winter: Orion Canis Major Canis Minor Monoceros Lepus Eridanus Taurus Auriga Camelopardalis Lynx Gemini Cancer|
|Spring: Hydra Sextans Crater Corvus Leo Leo Minor Ursa Major Ursa Minor Canes Venatici Coma Berenices Virgo Bootes|
|Summer: Draco Corona Borealis Hercules Ophiuchus Serpens Libra Scorpius Sagittarius Scutum Aquila Sagitta Vulpecula Lyra Cygnus|
|Autumn: Andromeda Perseus Pegasus Cassiopeia Cephus Cetus Lacerta Delphinus Equuleus Capricornus Aquarius Pisces Aries|
|Southern Skies: Centaurus Crux Lupus Corona Australis Piscis Australis Sculptor Tucana Fornax Dorado Columba Puppis Carina Vela|
The constellation Vulpecula was first introduced by the famous Polish astronomer, Johannes Helvelius, in 1690. Its original name was “Vulpecula cum Ansere” (fox with goose), and depicted a fox with a goose in its mouth. In modern astronomy the goose has mysteriously vanished, leaving just the fox. However, the name "Fox and Goose" had such a nice ring to it, it has become a traditional pub name in Britain.
Although Vulpecula is a small, dim constellation, with no particular mythology and no named stars, it does have one major claim to fame: M27 (NGC 6853), a planetary nebula named the Dumbbell Nebula. M27 is the first planetary nebula ever discovered, back in 1764 by the famous French astronomer Charles Messier. This cloud of gas thrown off by a dying star is considered the most conspicuous planetary nebula in the sky, easily accessible in a backyard telescope and even visible in a good set of binoculars. The star at the center of the nebula that created this extraordinary cloud has a faint magnitude of 13.5. The nebula itself shines at magnitude 8, and is 1,200 light years away. It is truly immense, stretching over 2.5 light years across, which is over 4,000 times greater than the distance from the Sun to Pluto. And it is growing ever larger, expanding at the incredible rate of 17 miles per second. The first photo below shows what the nebula looks like through a small scope at high magnification.
The next photo shows the beauty of the nebula's ionized gas using color filters, and the 3.5 meter Kitt Peak telescope.
The Hubble Space Telescope exposes the fascinating detail deep inside the nebula's glowing cloud of gas.
To date three planets have been discovered in the constellation of Vulpecula. They are all gas giants larger than Jupiter, and their parent stars too dim to see with the naked eye. For more information on exoplanets, visit NASA's Planet Quest.