Is it unachievable to Bino-viewers?
I learned that a truly dark sky is not the only need to catch this elusive roundish spot especially for small apertures. You will think that a bigger telescope is the answer but let me tell you that there is a lot of excess fabric to be trimmed in regarding this topic.
My first try to catch M97, the Owl Nebula, was when I first tried to make the whole Messier List with my 15x70 Binoculars: the well-known Messier Marathon. I failed M97 for two reasons in my opinion: I’d never seen it before and the dew was having a party in my binoculars.
As soon as I had a chance, I tried with my telescope under my usual Bortle 5 skies. With only 37.5 of magnification and an excellent transparency it was easy peasy. I did not see the Owl eyes in it, but I must confess that I did not expect to see those with only my 6 inches of aperture.
I was happy with the view, but still felt itchy to try it once again with my binoculars. I guess this is what it is about: challenging myself again and again.
April had been a mostly cloudy month and I guess it is announcing the wet season here in Lijiang, so I hadn’t had the chance to try the owl nebula with my binos again. I am glad that before the month ended I had a quick chance to try. I choose a spot about 2 miles north from the city where the northern sky was dark enough to see stars up to about 5.7 of magnitude. I caught a glimpse of M97 with averted vision. It was tough to see but there it was with only 70mm of aperture and 15X of magnification on a blue zone1.
With binoculars it is definitely hard to discern what it is, but it is definitely not unachievable. Expertise, a moderately dark sky and good transparency will let you accomplish one of the toughest objects in the Messier list and as a bonus you can also get M108, the surfboard Galaxy, a barred spiral Galaxy located at only 45.9 million light years from us.
Clear and dark skies,
Edited by: Jennifer Steinberg (editor in chief)
1 Information according lightpollutionmap