M57 – The Ring Nebula

Found in the constellation of Lyra – The Harp, is the planetary nebula, M57. Although called a planetary nebula, it is not caused by a planet, but a star. This particular one was caused by a red giant star which released a shell of ionized gas expanding into the interstellar medium. The Ring Nebula has a magnitude of 8.8 and an angular size of 1.5z1 arcminute, too small to see with binoculars, but visible with a small telescope of 4 inches.
First discovered by French astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in January of 1779; it was then independently discovered by Charles Messier a month later. Both Charles Messier and William Herschel believed M57 to be comprised of multiple faint stars, but were unresolvable in their small telescopes.
‘X’ Marks the spot for M57.
My Observation: With the 25mm at a magnification of 30x this small ring shaped object looks to be a bright gray color, but very small in size. Easily overlooked as just another star, but once you focus on it – especially with averted vision – you can make out that it is a ring shaped object. Remind me a lot of a Cheerio, or a Donut. Stepping up the magnification to the 12.5mm giving me a magnification of 60x, M57 doesn’t lose any brightness, but gains in size. It’s shape, and the fact that it’s not another star in the eyepiece, is much more visible. Looking like a smoke ring from a cigar smoker, it’s just about perfectly round.
M57 – The Ring Nebula. 5-12-12. Click to Enlarge.
This is 18 images at 30 seconds a piece, ISO1600 stacked with 15 darks and 20 bias frames. I could have probably gotten away with doing it at ISO800, and still maintaining the colors I got. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processing in Gimp.

M97 – The Owl Nebula

Within the constellation of Ursa Major there lies a planetary nebula named M97 or commonly called The Owl Nebula. This little planetary nebula is located near the bottom of the cup of the big dipper near the star Beta Ursae Majoris (Merak). M97 lies relatively near by, astronomically speaking, at a distance of around 2,600 light-years from our Sun. As we view it this nebula spans 2 light-years. Due to it’s round shape and two black circles this nebula resembles an owls face.
‘X’ Marks the spot where M97 is located. Screenshot from Stellarium.
From my telescope in my light polluted skies I could just barely make it out; it’s another tricky object, like M101, to spot due to it being at an 11 magnitude and very tiny. There is a distinct star pattern surrounding this wondrous planetary nebula, and it’s close proximity to the star Merak makes it an easy object to find, despite it’s low magnitude. Also within the same field of view as M97. When viewing this object I noticed I could see it a little better by blocking out any light coming in from nearby street lights. Although the eyes of the owl weren’t visible through the eyepiece, it is easily visible in photographs.
M97 – The Owl Nebula. March 26, 2012. Click to nebulate.
This image is 18 images at 30 seconds a piece, ISO 1600, 10 dark frames, and 20 bias frames. Taken on March 26, 2012 with an Omni XLT 150 and Canon 350D prime focus. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and edited in Gimp. The image is a little noisier than I would have liked, but that’s the consequence of using a 1600ISO and adjusting levels and curves like crazy.

M1 – The Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula is in the constellation Taurus. M1 is a supernova remnant and a pulsar wind nebula. The bright supernova was observed by the Arab, Chinese and Japanese astronomers in 1054. Even at 6500 light-years from Earth, and a diameter of 11 light-years this nebula is quite small and dim through a telescope, but starts to show a little bit of detail once you start imaging. Within the center of this nebula is the Crab Pulsar which is a neutron star emitting pulses of radiation from gamma rays to radio waves. The remnants of Supernova 1054 are known as the Crab nebula or as M1 which was the first object listed in the Messier catalog back in 1758.

Through the eyepiece you need your eyes to be dark adapted, or you may over look this faint little fuzzy cloud. Finding M1 is relatively easy as it lies near the star ZetaTauri. Through the eyepiece M1 is very dim and has a bit of an oval shape to it. Through my Omni XLT 150, which is a 6” telescope I couldn’t make out any details within the supernova at a magnification of 30x. Stepping up the magnification to 60x or more rendered it almost invisible, as magnifying an object usually reduces the amount of light that enters your eye. For deep space objects less magnification is almost always better, especially for things like dim nebula or dim globular clusters.
Click to Enlarge.
This image above is 3 minutes worth of data at 1600ISO, with 8 dark images also stacked to help remove noise from the cameras sensor. I took two separate stacks of these images and had Rachael Alexandra combine and edit them a bit further to bring out a little more detail in the image. Image taken with a Canon 350D Prime Focus on the Omni XLT 150 on March 11, 2012.