Bode's and Cigar Galaxies in Ursa Major are popular targets because they are fairly bright and can be seen together. They are both spiral galaxies but the Cigar Galaxy is seen edge-on.
The Cigar also appears to have red bursts of light from deep inside. One explanation is that Bode's and Cigar Galaxies orbit each other and have had close encounters that have triggered bursts of star formation. One estimate is that 40 million stars are in the process of being formed within.
Together they are known as Bode's Nebulae. Why nebulae and not galaxies? When they were discovered in 1774 by Johann Bode, the concept of a galaxy didn't yet exist. They were seen as clouds in space, or nebulae, and the name has remained.
Bode's Galaxy is also known as M81 while the Cigar Galaxy is also known as M82. This is because they were added to a target list of the famous comet hunter Charles Messier as the 81st and 82nd items back in 1781.
Viewing Bode's and Cigar Galaxies
mid-February to early May
Find the Big Dipper in Ursa Major. It will appear upside down in Spring evenings. Draw a line from Phecda to Dubhe in the Dipper. Continue the line in the same direction and distance.
From a dark site, they appear small and a bit dim but they are still larger and brighter than most galaxies in our sky. Bode's is larger and brighter than Cigar.
Use low power to view both together and then higher power to view each one. In Bode's, look for spiral arms. In Cigar, look for bursts or streaks of light. Try drawing them; this helps to see more.