The Owl Nebula is a planetary nebula located approximately 2,030 light years away in the constellation Ursa Major.This object is known by the catalogue identifiers Messier Object 97 (M97) and NGC 3587. It was discovered by French astronomer Pierre Méchain on February 16, 1781. When William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse observed the nebula in 1848, his hand-drawn illustration resembled an owl's head. It has been known as the owl nebula ever since.
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.
This image was taken over 6 hours on April 27 Through May2, 2015, using H-alpha and OIII filters, then processed using the bi-color technique to give the object a more natural color. Click on the image for a larger view.