The Owl (M97)
Planetary Nebula
aka M 97, NGC 3587, PN G148.4+57.0, PK 148+57.1, ARO 25
RA: 11h1P4m46.1s, Dec: +5501'07" (2000) in Ursa Major
Magnitude: 12.00
Size: 2.8'

Minimum requirements to detect: 4-inch under dark skies


The Owl (M97) is one of the largest and brightest examples of a planetary nebula.  Eclipsed only by the likes of the famous Ring and Dumbbell nebulae, the Owl is an excellent target for large an small telescopes alike.  Its name is derived from the two dark spots that appear in photographs and larger telescopes.  Catalogs list the Owl as 12th magnitude and 3' in diameter at a distance of 2000 light years, which translates to an actual diameter of nearly 2 light years.

In small telescopes (<8") M97 appears as a round hazy patch of sky.  Larger instruments may reveal the two dark spots. Observers with even  larger instruments (>14") may glimpse the 16th magnitude central star.  According to Burnham's, John Herschel saw  M97 as "a large, uniform, nebulous disc, quite round, very bright, not sharply defined but yet very suddenly fading away to darkness."

In April 2000 I observed M97 with my 18-inch Dob on an average night under dark skies. I noted: "Quite large and pale. Faint central star. Two dark regions on either side of center. Fuzzy, non distinct edges."

 
The view in a 6-inch at 50x.

While in the area don't miss the nearby galaxy M108, which lies 48' to the northwest. This edge-on galaxy is like a smaller version of M82.

This image from the DSS shows a 20' x 20' field. North is down and east is to the right.
Millennium Star Atlas Vol II Chart 576
Sky Atlas 2000 Chart 2
Uranometria 2000 Vol I Chart 46
Uranometria 2nd Ed. Chart 24
Herald-Bobroff Astroatlas B-05 C-03

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