How to Find the Owl Nebula (M97)

M97 is a planetary nebula in the constellation Ursa Major. It is also known as the owl nebula and for obvious reasons it appears to have owl eyes. 

This is a planetary nebula, such as the Blue Snowball Nebula. As a planetary nebula it was created by a star exploding at the end of its life and then casting off all its gases in the process to form a nebulous cocoon around it. That is what you are seeing when you look at it through your binoculars or telescope now, I have tried to look at this planetary nebula many times, many times over the years and I have always failed. From where I am based in London there is a lot of light pollution, which is the likely culprit.

But I had a good opportunity a few days ago and that was because there was no moon and it just rained for six hours so it had cleaned up the atmosphere completely. The sky was crystal clear providing great viewing which is what is needed for this target. 

Click to enlarge M97 star chart
While it is obviously easier to see if you have a larger telescope, it is still possible to see with smaller equipment, so keep this in mind as one of your possible targets. It is something you should try and capture or view because it is quite unique especially among planetary nebulas. The unique shape of the planetary nebula will stay with you.

How to find M97?

So, to get to it you just need to head down from the star Merak it is very close to it should not be difficult to find. But obviously it is actually seeing which is the problem and towards the handle of the big dipper or the plough but down rather than up 

To see what it would look like through your telescope as well as some brilliant stacked images of the Owl Nebula please watch the episode below.


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