Draco the Dragon is a dim and often overlooked constellation near the celestial north pole. There’s a couple of interesting deep sky objects that bring us to this large, sprawling region of the sky. It’s circumpolar so it never sets, always visible to northern hemisphere observers. It’s highest and best viewed during the summer.
Draco is outside the body of the Milky Way, so it is lacking in open clusters and nebulae, which are found in constellations closer to the plane of our galaxy. On the other hand, it has many dim galaxies and the bright planetary nebula, the "Cat's Eye" nebula.
Welcome to the Draco Constellation Report! This report is for observational amateur astronomers. This AstronomyLog constellation report gives a description of what can be observed in this constellation. The objects to observe include Messier objects, globular clusters, planetary nebulae, open clusters and double stars. See more reports at this Constellation Index.
The constellation Draco is one of the oldest recorded constellations, named from a battle between Greek gods. Poor Draco was thrown into the heavens to be trapped forever around the North Star. Check WikiPedia for more info on this constellation's history.
Finding this Constellation
Although it is dim, it can be found between two well-known and recognizable constellations: Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. It resembles a snake or a dragon, as its name suggests. The head is located near the Hercules keystone and is often mistaken as such my new observers because the shape is similar.
The trick for finding Draco is in locating his head. It's a "keystone" asterism similar to the keystone of Hercules. Both are near each other and often mistaken for one another. Draco's keystone asterism is smaller and closer to Polaris, the North Star.
Draco's body winds around Ursa Minor, the little dipper, and into the space between Ursa Major and Minor, the two bears, also known as the Big and Little Dippers. Other details and images of Draco can be found on Wikipedia.
Nu2 and nu1 Dra (Struve 35): A wide fixed binary of equally bright stars in the dragon's head. They can be split with binoculars.
Arrakis (Struve 2130): Another pair of very similar stars with a tight separation. This is a challenge to separate in a high power telescope at only 2.3".
16 Dra and 17 Dra (Struve 2078): A triple star system. Two are very close at only 3.0" separation with the third a distant 89.8" away.
Dziban (Psi Dra, Struve 2241): An easily separated pair with slight color difference.
40 and 41 Dra (Struve 2308): A wide pair of cream colored stars of similar brightness.
Struve 2398: This is a pair of red dwarfs that occasionally flare much brighter than their ordinary brightness of 8.94/9.70 magnitude respectively.
Deep Sky Objects
NGC 5866 (M102): Called Messier 102, it may not have actually been viewed by Charles Messier. This edge-on lenticular galaxy is generally accepted to be number 102 of his list.
NGC 5907: Located very close to NGC 5866, it is an almost perfect edge-on galaxy of nearly the same brightness.
NGC 6503: a relatively large, moderately bright galaxy located in the open space near the big bend in the dragon’s body.
NGC 6543: The Cat’s Eye Nebula is a bright planetary nebula that just gets better the larger the telescope you use to observe it.
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Star Map Images by Starry Night Software
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