M97 and M108 – Planetary Nebula & Galaxy

M97 is one of the fainter Messier objects in his catalog located in the constellation Ursa Major. M97, also known as the Owl Nebula due to it’s circular shape and the two black holes that look like owl eyes, is a complex planetary nebula. The central star which caused the nebula is estimated at 16 magnitude, and is believed to be about 0.7 solar masses. The Owl Nebula is significantly brighter visually than it is photographically because most of the light that is emitted is in a single green spectral line. Visually this nebula is estimated between 9.7 and 9.9 magnitude – very hard to see in light polluted skies – and is estimated to be 12th magnitude photographically.

M108 is an edge-on spiral galaxy near the star Beta Ursa Majoris. This galaxy appears to have no bulge or significantly pronounced core; it is a detail-rich disk. Although faint at around 9.4 magnitude it is an easy object to spot, and I can say that it was easier to locate than M97. M108 has little evidence of well defined spiral arms, and is considered part of the the Ursa Major Cloud of galaxies.

M97 was discovered by Pierre Méchain on February 16, 1781, but was not included in Charles Messier’s printed catalog of 1781, but he had descriptions of it in his manuscript personal pre-print version.

M108 also discovered by Pierre Méchain on February 19, 1781, only three days after discovering M97. Charles Messier listed this object as “98” in his preliminary manuscript version of his catalog, but failed to include the objects location.

'X' marks the spot of M97 and M108

‘X’ marks the spot of M97 and M108

Honestly through my eyepiece in my light pollution I was able to make out M108 and with enough staring and using averted vision I was just barely able to make out M97, but knowing the look of the stars near M97 I knew I was in the right place. I could have easily over looked both of these objects if I was just quickly scanning the skies.

M97 and M108 03-09-13

This image is 36 images at 2 minutes a piece, ISO 800, and 25 dark frames. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post-processing done in Photoshop.

Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Polar Scope for alignment

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.