M101 = M102 (NGC 5457) -- Spiral Galaxy in Ursa Major
Hiding in Plain Sight
One would suspect that the galaxy, M100, shining at 8th magnitude would be an easy target
from my light-polluted yard. But it is not. This face on spiral covers nearly as much sky as a
Full Moon, greatly spreading out its combined magnitude-8-light. With a surface brightness
of only 14.8, it easily disappears when skies are not transparent, or light-contamination is a
M101 is an easy star-hop from the famous double-star Mizar in the Big Dipper, so knowing
where M101 is, is not the issue – seeing it is. On the morning of March 24, 2018, from the
deck of my house, I could barely make-out this galaxy with the 155mm telescope, even
though it was a transparent night. Only the core was visible for sure through the telescope,
with just hits of the possible existence of the spiral arms that flickered in and out of visibility.
Looking at the drawing that Stephen O’Meara did of M101 in his book, “The Messier
Objects” puts my drawing to shame. With a telescope 2-inches smaller than mine, from a
dark-sky location in Hawaii, O’Meara after sketching/observing M101 for several nights, was
able to capture the spiral structure of the galaxy in his drawing – very impressive. M101, is
indeed, one of those objects that begs to be seen under dark skies.