M97 is regarded as one of the more complex of the planetaries. The 16th magnitude central star has about 0.7 solar mass and the nebula itself about 0.15 solar mass. The nebula formed roughly 6,000 years ago.
The nebula gets it name due to the appearance of owl-like "eyes" when view through a large (>200 mm) telescope under dark sky conditions with the aid of a so-called "nebula filter." The "eyes" are also easily visible through photographs taken of the nebula.