M97 - The Owl Nebula

Credits: Goran Nilsson & The Liverpool Telescope

The Owl Nebula (also known as Messier 97, M97 or NGC 3587) is a planetary nebula located approximately 2,030 light years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The nebula is approximately 8,000 years old. It is approximately circular in cross-section with a little visible internal structure. It was formed from the outflow of material from the stellar wind of the central star as it evolved along the asymptotic giant branch. The nebula is arranged in three concentric shells, with the outermost shell being about 20–30% larger than the inner shell. The owl-like appearance of the nebula is the result of an inner shell that is not circularly symmetric, but instead forms a barrel-like structure aligned at an angle of 45° to the line of sight.

Facts about M97 by Keith Turnecliff

The Owl Nebula was discovered by French astronomer Pierre Méchain on February 16, 1781. Pierre Méchain was Charles Messier's observing colleague, and the nebula was observed by Messier himself a few weeks following the initial sighting. Thus, the object was named Messier 97 and included in his catalog on March 24, 1781.
The best time to observe M97 is during the month of March / April.

This star chart represents the view from Long Itchington for early April at 10pm.
Credits: Image courtesy of Starry Night Pro Plus 8, researched and implemented by Keith Turnecliff.