FUZZY SPOT,  May 2000, Ursa Major

Ursa Major is best known to most people as the Big Dipper, but this asterism is only a small portion of the figure which forms a bear.  The handle part of the dipper is the tail and the scoop forms the body with other stars in the area forming the head and legs.  Using a little imagination, the figure of an animal can be made out.

Ursa Major is an extremely large constellation extending well beyond the Big Dipper.  Only Hydra and Virgo are larger in area.  Also being on the northern end of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, it is very rich in deep sky objects.  There are 7 Messier objects, 10 Best of the NGC objects, and a whopping 46 Herschel 400 objects.  It is obviously impossible to cover all of these objects in the space allowed for this article, so this month I'm focusing on the Messier objects.  All of these observations were made in the 10" scope.
 

        M-40 (12h21.9 +58 06) is also known as Winnecke-4, and is probably the most bizarre of the Messier Objects.  It is a double star near the point where the handle attaches to the bowl of the dipper.  I saw the pair as a wide double colored white and slightly red, and oriented E/W. Hevelius thought he saw a nebulous glow around the stars and because of this, Messier included this object in his catalog even though he did not see any nebulosity.  To the W is galaxy NGC 4290 which is worth a peak while you are in the area.

        M-81 (09h55.6 +69 04) is a nice almost face on spiral galaxy, and at low power can be viewed with M-82 in the same field.  It is very large, very bright, and contains a much brighter middle which suddenly brightens to a non-stellar nucleus.  It is elongated NW/SE, and by using averted vision, the halo extend quite a bit, especially in the minor axis.  2 stars are involved to the SE.  There is some possible mottling suspected, but for the most part it is very even.

        M-82 (09h55.8 +69 41) is a nice contrasting object to nearby M-81.  At 70X I saw it as pretty bright, fairly large, extremely elongated ENE/WSW, very mottled, and with no central brightening.  There are possible dark notches at the middle of the galaxy.  Taking a little more time, I observed a fainter halo surrounding the main central streak.  There is a nice string of 3 stars leading away from the galaxy to the SW and several other stars close by.  This is a very nice streak of light in the sky.

        M-97 (11h14.8 +55 01), better known as the Owl Nebula, is a planetary nebula out of place in the middle of galaxy country.  I noted it as very round, with the dark spots suspected and a bright star to N.  Using the UHC filter, the nebula is more obvious and the dark eyes are easier to see.

        M-101 (14h03.3 +54 22) is an absolutely fantastic face on spiral galaxy.  There are numerous knots of nebulosity which are part of M-101, and other galaxies in the area which are all real nice.  At 70X I considered this galaxy as very very large, pretty bright, with a fairly bright halo and a nice sharp center.  A definite clockwise spiral structure is seen, as well as some knots of nebulosity noted with averted vision.  At 100X there is a bright non-stellar nucleus, 2 knots to SW, and one to SE.

        M-108 (11h11.5 +55 40) is near the Owl Nebula.  It is very bright, pretty large, very elongated WNW/ESE, and contains a very bright middle with a stellar nucleus.  There is a star on W side of the halo.  Using averted vision makes the galaxy stand out somewhat.  This is one of the dimmer Messier Objects.

        M-109 (11h57.6 +53 22), the final Messier object in Ursa Major, is somewhat bright, elongated E/W, contains a bright middle with a star involved near center, and a non-stellar nucleus.  Using averted vision makes halo grow a little.  An interesting note that I made is that the "halo extends between the ends", whatever that is supposed to mean.

Herschel 400 Objects
2681, 2742, 2768, 2787, 2841, 2950, 2976, 2985, 3034, 3077, 3079, 3184, 3198, 3310, 3556, 3610, 3613, 3619, 3931, 3665, 3675, 3726, 3729, 3813, 3877, 3893, 3898, 3941, 3945, 3949, 3953, 3982, 3992, 3998, 4026, 4036, 4041, 4051, 4085, 4088, 4102, 5322, 5473, 5474, 5631
SAC's 110 Best of the NGC Objects
2841, 3077, 3079, 3184, 3675, 3877, 3941, 4026, 4088, 4605


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