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Owl Nebula (M97)
Audrey Rink

Previous imageUp to Astr110 IndexNext imageOwl Nebula M97

The Owl Nebula M97 is a planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae, so named because they look like planets, are at the point of a main sequence star’s life when the carbon “ash” core becomes a white dwarf star and the outer layers of the star are gently ejected, forming a nebula. By this point in the star’s life, the core has run out of hydrogen fuel to burn and is near the end of its life. This particular nebula was discovered by Pierre Méchain on February 16, 1781 within the Ursa Major constellation. Its distance is estimated to be 2,500 lightyears (2.5 kly), its mass 0.15 solar masses, and its linear size about 2 lightyears.

M97 is a more complex planetary nebula; its appearance is similar to that of a “cylindrical torus shell and viewed obliquely” (Frommert),  which corresponds to the owl’s eyes. Within the Owl Nebula are four stars with the brighter white dwarf at the center. In the background are several smaller fuzzy objects that are most likely distant galaxies.

Bennett, Jeffrey, Megan Donahue, Nicholas Schneider, and Mark Voit. The Cosmic Perspective. 6th ed. San Francisco: Addison-Wesley, 2010. 543-44.

Frommert, Hartmut, and Christine Kronberg. "Messier 97." Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. 2 Sept. 2007. Accessed 3 Dec. 2010. <>.

Right Ascension (J2000) 11:14:48
Declination (J2000) +55:01:00
Filters used clear (C)
Exposure time per filter 4x300s
Date observed

October 29, 2010



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