The Binocular Sky


M81 (NGC 3031)

Constellation: UMa
Object Type: Galaxy
RA:  9h 55m 33s
Dec:  +69° 4' 1"
Magnitude: 7.8
Recommended minimum aperture: 50mm

Charts for 100mm Binocular (2.5° aperture circle).   Click on a chart to print it.


I usually find this pair with the aid of a reflex finder. Extend a line from Phecda (γ UMa) through Dubhe (α UMa) the same distance beyond Dubhe. From this point, the galaxies are a degree or so in the direction of Polaris (α UMi) , adjacent to the 4.5th magnitude 24 UMa.

What You Should See:

This pair fits easily into a 2° field of view and offers a nice contrast. M81, also known as Bode’s Nebula is the easier of the pair in small binoculars, but both are easy objects at 37×100, with M81 clearly showing a very bright nucleus and M82 appearing bright but mottled along its long axis, giving rise to its common name: the Cigar Galaxy. Their difference in orientation is obvious.