The Owl Nebula (M97) AND THE SURFBOARD GALAXY (M108)

Updated: Jan 13


Messier 97 and Messier 108 were both discovered in February 1781 by Pierre Méchain.

He first spotted the small, dim, and unimpressive M97 nebula, and just three days later saw M108 through his telescope, just near the Owl. Messier 108 is seen almost edge-on, giving it the look of a surfboard. It is classified as a barred spiral galaxy with loose arms.


The nickname of Messier 97, the Owl, was given by William Parson in 1848 after the drawing he made of the nebula, where two big eyes could be seen.

Let's face it, the owl looks a tad… boring, by itself! It is nonetheless a popular target for astrophotographers, thanks to the nearby galaxy M108 that really adds to the picture.


Below is our image of both M97 and M108. You can see us capture this from beginning to end in our 12th Episode of Galactic Hunter.

We explain in the video that we made the mistake of forgetting one of the adapters for the ASI 1600MM camera, resulting in really bad coma on the edges. We will update this post with a better image when we revisit these targets and correctly attach all the adapters :)


3 hours and a half on M97 and M108



GEAR USED:

Camera: ZWO ASI 1600mm Pro Mono

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Coma: Baader MPCC Coma Corrector MkIII

Guiding: Starshoot Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope

Acquisition: ASI Air

Power: Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 3 hours and 33 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Filters: L (33m) / R (1 hour) / G (1 hour) / B (1 hour)

Gain: 139



LOCATING M97 AND M108

Both of these objects can be found in the constellation of Ursa Major, near the bright star Merak.

Although very small, observing M97 and M108 using an eyepiece is actually pretty rewarding due to their proximity to one another. The Owl nebula even appears brighter visually than in a photograph. The sight you will have when looking at these is very similar to if you were going to observe M81 and M82, only a bit dimmer.


Because of their small size and faint magnitude, these objects can not be seen with the naked eye and are extremely difficult to spot through binoculars.

SINGLE SHOT & PROCESSING OF M97 AND M108

We used four filters to capture M97 and M108: Luminance, Red, Green, and Blue. We were still very unfamiliar with using LRGB filters one by one with an Astrophotography dedicated camera, so we're not sure that the Gain (139) and the exposure time for each (3 minutes) was the best choices for this.


Below you can see each of the stacked filters:



We then combined each of these using PixInsight's LRGBCombination process, which was quick and easy! Here is the result below.


Files stacked, cropped, and ready to be processed



GALACTIC HUNTER EPISODE #12 - THE OWL NEBULA AND SURFBOARD GALAXY

Both Messier 97 and Messier 108 were captured during our 12th Episode of Galactic Hunter! Watch our video below to see our entire process!




FINAL THOUGHTS

The Owl Nebula and Surfboard Galaxy are often overlooked as "boring" Messier objects mostly due to their small size and faint brightness. The truth is, the two of them together make for a beautiful image, and it is really great to see both a nebula and a galaxy so close to each other.



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