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

M76 – The Little Dumbbell Nebula

M76 is a planetary nebula in the constellation Perseus, and is very similar to another Messier object, M27 the Dumbbell Nebula. Discovered by Pierre Mechain on September 5, 1780, and then handed over to Charles Messier who then catalogued it as object number 76 in his list on October 21, 1780. Later on in 1787, Sir William Herschel examined the target and noticed it had a dual form of two nebula close together. Still unsure if this is a single nebula, or like Herschel thinks, two distinct nebula. M76 shines at a total of 10.1 magnitude with the central star at 15 magnitude making both the nebula and the central star very dim.

‘X’ Marks the spot of M76.

I have tried for this object in my telescope a few times with no luck. I finally was able to get this small dim nebula in my view after hunting for it. With my lowest magnification I couldn’t make out much detail in this nebula.

M76 – The Little Dumbbell Nebula. 10-12-12

This image is 26 images stacked at 1 minute exposures and ISO 1600, with 10 dark frames. I was going to crop this image down, but the star field really adds to the image. The majority of this nebula came out a turquoise color, while the two ends have a red coloring to them.

Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring adapter
DIY Reticle eyepiece for drift alignment

M27 – The Dumbbell Nebula

M27 is located in the constellation Vulpecula and lies at about a distance of 1300 light years from Earth. It was the first planetary nebula discovered by Charles Messier in 1764 while he was compiling his list of objects that, to him, looked like comets. The dumbbell nebula has a visual magnitude of 7.5 with a diameter of 8 arcminutes. Easily spotted in binoculars and small telescopes, and starts to show more detail in larger scopes.

‘X’ Marks the spot of M27

William Herschel named these “Planetary Nebula” because the green tint surrounding them reminded him of his discovery of the planet Uranus. He guessed that this was a newly forming solar system, but as we know now it is the result of a moderate to small star when it reaches old age. After a star uses up all it’s hydrogen the cores shrink, heat up, and they start to burn helium. After the core collapses into a white dwarf star, the outer parts expand into space and form a shell.

My Observation: The few planetary nebula I have seen have definitely made them one of my favorite deep space objects. Once centered in with my telescope at a magnification of 30x this planetary nebula is very prominent and stands out quite bright against it’s dark star filled background. At this magnification I didn’t notice the central white dwarf star, but I could make out the apparent ‘dumbbell’ shape which it got it’s nickname from.

M27 – The Dumbbell Nebula

M27 – Dumbbell Nebula. This is a re-edit of the same data used in the above image.

This image is a stack of 41 images at 30 seconds a piece and ISO800. Stacked in deep sky stacker, and edited and composited in Gimp. I did two different edits and layer masked them to bring out the red and the green colors. Taken with a Canon 350D prime focus through my Omni XLT 150.

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.