Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stunning Owl's eyes

M97 under averted vision. 
200mm SCT, f/10, 25mm eyepiece, binoviewer, LPF
2 April 2011; 22:30UT. Seeing: good.

M97 - the Owl nebula in Ursa Major, is an interesting object for amateur sketchers. It is a nearby object - some 2300 light years from the Sun, so it appears only ten times smaller than the full moon. The name was coined by Lord Rosse in 1848 when he resembled its appearance to the face of an owl.

The best time to observe M97 is around midnight when Ursa Major will have risen high enough. Observers report that this nebula is not distinctive through a 6" telescopes due to its low surface brightness. However an 8" reflector starts to collect enough photons to make the surface distinctive and apparent.

Averted vision and patience helps defining the varying brightness, bringing into view the two dark patches that make up the eyes of the owl. The above sketch was done using graphite blenders, scanned and inverted using GIMP.

Some observers say that under dark skies one can even spot the central star that appears between the eyes as well as the faint traces of colour inside the nebula.

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