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Messier Objects

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Messier Objects by Constellations, click here for an overview…

Andromeda

 
[M31]

31 The Andro- meda Galaxy spiral galaxy (type Sb) M31 is the famous Andromeda galaxy, our nearest large neighbor galaxy, forming the Local Group of galaxies together with its companions (including M32 and M110, two bright dwarf elliptical galaxies), our Milky Way and its companions, M33, and others. Visible to the naked eye even under moderate conditions, this object was known as the “little cloud” to the Persian astronomer Abd-al-Rahman Al-Sufi, who described and depicted it in 964 AD in his Book of Fixed Stars: It must have been observed by and commonly known to Persian astronomers at Isfahan as early as 905 AD, or earlier. R.H. Allen (1899/1963) reports that it was also appeared on a Dutch starmap of 1500. Charles Messier, who cataloged it on August 3, 1764, was obviously unaware of this early reports, and ascribed its discovery to Simon Marius, who was the first to give a telescopic description in 1612, but (according to R.H. Allen) didn’t claim its discovery. Unaware of both Al Sufi’s and Marius’ discovery, Giovanni Batista Hodierna independently rediscovered this object before 1654. Edmond Halley, however, in his 1716 treat of “Nebulae”, accounts the discovery of this “nebula” to the French astronomer Bullialdus (Ismail Bouillaud), who observed it in 1661; but Bullialdus mentions that it had been seen 150 years earlier (in the early 1500s) by some anonymous astronomer (R.H. Allen, 1899/1963). It was longly believed that the “Great Andromeda Nebula” was one of the nearest nebulae. William Herschel believed, wrongly of course, that its distance would “not exceed 2000 times the distance of Sirius” (17,000 light years); nevertheless, he viewed it at the nearest “island universe” like our Milky Way which he assumed to be a disk of 850 times the distance of Sirius in diameter, and of a thickness of 155 times that distance.

[M32]

32 Satellite galaxy of M31 elliptical galaxy (type E2)Hubble Space Telescope’s exquisite resolution has allowed astronomers to resolve, for the first time, hot blue stars deep inside an elliptical galaxy. The swarm of nearly 8, 000 blue stars resembles a blizzard of snowflakes near the core (lower right) of the neighboring galaxy M 32, located 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. Discovered 1749 by Guillaume Joseph Hyacinthe Jean Baptiste Le Gentil de la Galaziere (Le Gentil). M32 is the small yet bright companion of the Great Andromeda Galaxy, M31, and as such a member of the Local Group of galaxies. It can be easily found when observing the Andromeda Galaxy, as it is situated 22 arc minutes exactly south of M31’s central region, overlaid over the outskirts of the spiral arms. It appears as a remarkably bright round patch, slightly elongated at position angle 150-330 deg, and is easily visible in small telescopes. Its ellipticity is about E2, i.e. the smaller diameter, or axis, or its elliptically shaped image, projected along our line of sight, is about a fraction of 0.2, or 20 percent, shorter than its larger axis. M32 is an elliptical dwarf of only about 3 billion solar masses, and a linear diameter of some 8,000 light years, very small compared to its giant spiral-shaped neighbor. Nevertheless and surprising for such a small galaxy, its nucleus is of comparable properties as that of M31: About 100 million solar masses, 5000 suns per cubic parsecs, are in rapid motion around a central supermassive object. Because of this nucleus, M32 is sometimes classified as cE2 instead of simply E2, e.g. by NED. Near the center of this galaxy, the sky would be dominated by this object, and full with the members of this galaxy, while at the edges, only one hemisphere would be filled with them, the other showing only few outlying stars and the intergalactic space. Toward M31, this galaxy would give a fascinating view in the night sky of a virtual astronomer in the outskirts of M32. M32 appears to us superimposed over the spiral arms of greater M31. Therefore, it is of interest if it lies before or behind the great galaxy’s disk. Spectroscopic investigations have not shown any absorption which would be expected if its light had passed the interstellar matter in M31’s disk, which suggests that M32 is closer to us than that portion of M31. The radial velocity of M32 has been measured at 203 km/s (R. Brent Tully) or 205 +/- 8 km/s (NED) in approach in the heliocentric system, i.e., toward our Solar System; corrected for galactic rotation, M32 is currently about at rest (RV=0) w.r.t. the Milky Way’s Galactic Center. Compared to M31, it is approaching about 100 km/s slower, and considering its closer distance, it is apporaching M31 at this velocity in the radial component. M32 and the other bright companion of M31, M110, are the closest bright elliptical galaxies to us, therefore also the among best investigated. They were both first resolved into stars by Walter Baade in 1944 with the 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mt. Wilson when he also resolved the nucleus of M31 (Baade 1944). Baade recognized that their stars were mostly old population II stars, and about as bright (and thus at roughly the same distance) as M31, thus confirming their proximity to the large spiral galaxy. There are remarkable differences between these dwarf galaxies: While M32 is a typical generic elliptical, compact and of high surface brightness, M110 is much more loose, of lower surface brightness, and exposes peculiar structures; now, M110 is often classified as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy instead of elliptical. Remarkably, M32 has no globular clusters (again, in difference to M110 which has 8 ) .

[M110]

110 Satellite galaxy of M31 elliptical galaxy (type E6pec), The last object in the Messier catalog is an elliptical galaxy in the constellation of Andromeda. It is the second brighter of the two satellite galaxies of M31, the Andromeda galaxy. All three of these galaxies are members of the local group. M110 was discovered by Messier in 1783 when he discovered M31, but it was not included in his catalog at the time. It is located about 2.9 million light years from Earth. At magnitude 8.5, it can easily be found with binoculars. It is an impressive sight in a 4-inch or larger telescope.

Aquarius

 
[M2]

2 is a globular cluster of stars, located in the constellation of Aquarius. This cluster is located about 50,000 light years from Earth. It is believed to be about 175 light years in diameter. M2 is one of the brightest and largest globular clusters in the sky. This cluster’s visual magnitude of 6.5 means it can easily be found with a pair of binoculars. A telescope will be required to resolve the cluster’s individual stars.

[M72]

72 globular cluster, In the constellation Aquarius lies a globular cluster known as M72. This object is one of the more remote globular clusters in the Messier catalog. It has a diameter of about 90 light years, and is located over 53,000 light years from Earth. Although its apparent magnitude is only 9.3, this cluster’s extreme distance means that it is one of the brightest globulars yet discovered. Visually, it is a somewhat loose cluster. M72 is approaching us at over 250 km/sec. This object may be difficult to locate with binoculars but makes an easy target with a telescope.

[M73]

73 system or asterism of 4 stars, Another interesting object to be found in Aquarius is M73. This object is unlike most of Messier’s other discoveries. M73 is a small cluster of four stars. It is officially classified as an asterism. An asterism is a star pattern, and is different from a constellation. For example, the big dipper is an asterism within the constellation of Ursa Major. M73 may appear as a nebula at first glance with small instruments. Some astronomers believe this object to be a true star cluster, but there is little evidence at this time to support that claim. M73 is easily visible in binoculars, but it takes a telescope to resolve the individual stars in the formation.

Auriga

 
[M36]

36 open cluster,, Nestled within the constellation Auriga is M36, a galactic cluster of about 60 stars. This cluster is around 4,100 light years from Earth and has a diameter of about 14 light years. At an age of only 25 million years, it is quite young and contains no red giant stars. M36 has a visual magnitude of 6.3 with the individual member stars ranging in magnitude from 9 to 14. This relatively large cluster is easy to spot with binoculars. In telescopes, it is best viewed at low powers.

[M37]

37 open cluster, M37 is a galactic cluster of about 150 stars located in the constellation Auriga. It has a diameter of about 4,600 light years, making it roughly twice the size as nearby M36. At a distance of around 4,600 light years, it is the richest and brightest of the Auriga clusters. It is also the oldest at about 300 million years. M37 is considered to be one of the finest open clusters in the heavens. It is easily viewed in binoculars and small telescopes.

[M38]

38 open cluster, M38 is the third of the three Auriga clusters. It is about 4,200 light years away and has a linear diameter of around 21 light years. The cluster has a total visual magnitude of 7.4 and contains more than 100 stars. The brightest stars of the cluster have been said to form a Greek letter Pi, or according to some, an oblique cross. M38 is of intermediate age at about 220 million years. It is a large cluster and is easily viewed with binoculars. In telescopes, it is best viewed at low power.

Cancer

 
[M44]

44 Praesepe, the Beehive Cluster open cluster, Located in the constellation of Cancer is an impressive galactic cluster of stars known as M44. This famous cluster is also known as Praesepe, and more recently, the Beehive Cluster. The Beehive was given this name because to some it resembles a swarm of bees. It is one of the few deep-sky objects visible to the naked eye and has been known since ancient times. M44 consists of about 350 stars, 40 of which are bright enough to be seen in a small telescope. This cluster is about 577 light years from Earth and is believed to be approximately 400 million years old.

[M67]

67 open cluster, The constellation of Cancer is the site of an open star cluster called M67. It is one of the oldest known open clusters and is believed to be over 3 billion years old. It is also the oldest cluster in the Messier catalog. This cluster is located about 2,700 light years from Earth. It contains around 500 stars, some 200 of which are believed to be white dwarfs. At magnitude 6.1, it is an easy target for the binocular observer. Viewing through a telescope will reveal some of the cluster’s fainter stars.

Canes Venatici

 
[M3]

3 globular cluster, Located in the constellation Canes Venatici, M3 is a tight cluster of almost 500,000 stars. This cluster is located approximately 30,000 light years from Earth. It contains about 170 faint variable stars, which is more than any other globular cluster. A visual magnitude of 6.2 makes this bright cluster an easy target for binoculars and telescopes alike.

 
[M51]

51 The Whirlpool Galaxy spiral galaxy. The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 (NGC 5194) appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust. This sharpest-ever image, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy’s grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars. The galaxy is nicknamed the Whirlpool because of its swirling structure. The Whirlpool’s most striking feature is its two curving arms, a hallmark of so-called grand-design spiral galaxies. Many spiral galaxies possess numerous, loosely shaped arms that make their spiral structure less pronounced. These arms serve an important purpose in spiral galaxies. They are star-formation factories, compressing hydrogen gas and creating clusters of new stars. In the Whirlpool, the assembly line begins with the dark clouds of gas on the inner edge, then moves to bright pink star-forming regions, and ends with the brilliant blue star clusters along the outer edge. Some astronomers believe that the Whirlpool’s arms are so prominent because of the effects of a close encounter with NGC 5195, the small, yellowish galaxy at the outermost tip of one of the Whirlpool’s arms. At first glance, the compact galaxy appears to be tugging on the arm. Hubble’s clear view, however, shows that NGC 5195 is passing behind the Whirlpool. The small galaxy has been gliding past the Whirlpool for hundreds of millions of years. As NGC 5195 drifts by, its gravitational muscle pumps up waves within the Whirlpool’s pancake-shaped disk. The waves are like ripples in a pond generated when a rock is thrown in the water. When the waves pass through orbiting gas clouds within the disk, they squeeze the gaseous material along each arm’s inner edge. The dark dusty material looks like gathering storm clouds. These dense clouds collapse, creating a wake of star birth, as seen in the bright pink star-forming regions. The largest stars eventually sweep away the dusty cocoons with a torrent of radiation, hurricane-like stellar winds, and shock waves from supernova blasts. Bright blue star clusters emerge from the mayhem, illuminating the Whirlpool’s arms like city streetlights. The Whirlpool is one of astronomy’s galactic darlings. Located 31 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs), the Whirlpool’s beautiful face-on view and closeness to Earth allow astronomers to study a classic spiral galaxy’s structure and star-forming processes.

[M63]

63 Sunflower galaxy spiral galaxy, Located within in the constellation of Canes Venaciti is M63, a spiral galaxy also known as the Sunflower Galaxy. It earned this name due to its sunflower-like appearance. It was originally discovered in 1779 by Messier’s friend, Pierre Mechain. This galaxy is located about 37 million light years from Earth, and is part of a group of galaxies that includes M51. A good telescope and optimal sky conditions will reveal the galaxy’s spiral arms as a grainy background that brightens considerably towards its center. Color photos of this galaxy show star-forming regions throughout its spiral arms.

[M94]

94 spiral galaxy, In the constellation of Leo, the lion, can be found an interesting spiral galaxy known as M94. This galaxy has an extremely bright inner region, surrounded by a ring of active star-forming regions. Color photographs of the galaxy reveals the blue colors of these young stars. Another region of moderate star formation is also visible. The distance of this galaxy is not well known, but best estimates place it at about 15 million light years from us. With a magnitude of 8.2, it can be found with binoculars. Telescopes will reveal much more detail in this galaxy.

[M106]

106 spiral galaxy, Canes Venatici is the home of spiral galaxy known as M106. It is located about 25 million light years from Earth and is receding from us at the rate of 537 km/sec. This galaxy is rotated to our line of sight, which gives is an elongated appearance. In color photographs, the spiral arms end in bright blue knots. These are believed to be young star clusters composed of giant, hot blue stars. M106 can be spotted in binoculars but requires a small telescope to reveal any details.

Canis Major

 
[M41]

41 open cluster Cpricornus, M41 is an open, or galactic, cluster located within the constellation of Canis Major. This cluster is located about 4 degrees South of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. M41 contains about 100 stars of varying colors. Several of these stars are red giants, the brightest of which is about 700 times brighter than the Sun. This cluster is about 26 light years across and is situated approximately 2,300 light years from Earth. M41’s age is estimated at about 190 million years. It is easily visible with a pair of binoculars.

[M30]

30 globular cluster, Located in the constellation Capricornus, M30 is a globular cluster of stars located about 25,000 light years from Earth. This dense cluster is around 75 light years in diameter and contains 12 known variable stars. It is actually approaching us at a speed of 164 kilometers per second. M30’s large size and dense structure make it a remarkable object when viewed through binoculars or small telescopes.

Cassiopeia

 
[M52]

52 open cluster, M52 is an open cluster of stars situated within the constellation of Cassiopeia. It can be seen against the backdrop of a Milky Way field. This object has been described as a “salt and pepper” cluster due to its dense arrangement of about 200 bright stars. M52 is believed to be only 23 million years old. Its distance from Earth is not certain. Estimates range anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 light years. With a magnitude of 7.3, this cluster is easily visible to an observer with binoculars. A small telescope will reveal the cluster’s fainter stars.

[M103]

103 open cluster,M 103 is one of the latest additions to the Messier catalog. It was discovered by Pierre Mechain and included in the catalog before Messier had a chance to observe it directly. It was also the last object to be included in the first publication of Messier’s catalog. This is an open cluster of stars situated in the constellation of Cassiopeia. It consists of about 40 stars located some 8,000 light years from Earth. Visually, M103 is said to form an arrowhead shape. This bright cluster is an easy target for a pair of binoculars. A small telescope will be able to resolve the cluster’s fainter stars.

Cetus

 
[M77]

77 spiral galaxy, The constellation Cetus is the location of a beautiful spiral galaxy known as M77. This is one of the largest galaxies in the Messier catalog. The brightest parts of this galaxy measure about 120,000 light years in diameter, but its fainter extensions bring it out to a total of 170,000 light years. This galaxy is believed to be located around 60 million light years from Earth and is receding from us at a whopping 1100 km/sec. Visually, it appears as a large spiral with broad structured arms. At a magnitude of 8.9, it can easily be located with a pair of binoculars on a good night. large telescopes will reveal some of the more intricate details in this galaxy.

Coma Berenices

 
[M53]

53 globular cluster, Discovered 1775 by Johann Elert Bode. Globular star cluster M53 is one of the more outlying globulars, being about 60,000 light years away from the Galactic center, and almost the same distance (about 58,000 light years) from out Solar system. At this distance, its apparent angular diameter of 13′ corresponds to a linear diameter of roughly 220 light years. It is rapidly approaching us at a velocity given by Mallas as 112 km/s, by Harris as 79 km/s. M53 has a bright compact central nucleus of about 2′ in diameter, although its stars are not very concentrated toward the center when compared to other globulars, and a gradually decreasing density profile to the outer edges. Harlow Shapley classified it in density, or concentration class V. While the NGC, following John Herschel, suspected its brightest red giant stars at about 12th magnitude, the Deep Sky Field Guide lists them at 13.8 mag, and the hirizontal branch at about magnitude 16.9. The cluster’s overall spectral type is givan as F6. Its discoverer Johann Elert Bode, who found it on February 3, 1775, described it as a “rather vivid and round” nebula. Charles Messier, who independently rediscovered and cataloged it two years later, on February 26, 1777, found it “round and conspicuous” and that it resembles M79. William Herschel was the first to resolve it into stars, and found it similar to M10. As in all globular clusters, the stars of M53 are apparently “metal-poor”, which means that they contain only little quantities of elements heavier than helium (actually mainly elements like carbon and oxygene); those of M53 are even below the average globular cluster members in “metallicity”. It contains the considerably respectable number of 47 known RR Lyrae variables, some of them were reported to have changed their periods irreversibly with time (Kenneth Glyn-Jones). In small amateur telescopes, M53 appears as a slightly oval nebulous object with a large, bright center, of rather even surface brightness and evenly fading out to the edges. Mallas reports that he saw many stars in the 4-inch refractor under excellent viewing conditions, with the central part appearing somewhat grainy. In somewhat larger telescopes, its outer fringes appear resolved into stars, while the central part is still unresolved and grainy, with one star standing out, in telescopes of about 8-inch aperture. Large instruments of about 12-inch up show it well resolved, with a moderately concenterated nucleus and stars spread out to about 12 arc minutes diameter. M53 can be easily found just 1 deg NE of the 4th-mag star, 42 Alpha Comae Berenices, a visual binary star (A: 5.05, B: 5.08, both of spectral type F5V). Alpha Comae itself may be located by either following the line from Arcturus via Eta Bootis by a further 11 deg to the W, or by following the line of Gamma – Delta – Epsilon Virginis by another 7 deg NNE. At only about 1 degree separation to the east, the faint and quite loose globular cluster NGC 5053 comes into the field of view, which is at roughly the same distance as M53 (53,500 light years), indicating that these clusters are also physically rather close together. NGC 5053 contains significantly less stars than M53, in particular doesn’t have such a densely populated, compact bright center, so that its classification as globular was doubted in the past (now it was confirmed by spectroscopy).

[M64]

64 Blackeye galaxy spiral galaxy A collision of two galaxies has left a merged star system with an unusual appearance as well as bizarre internal motions. Messier 64 (M64) has a spectacular dark band of absorbing dust in front of the galaxy’s bright nucleus, giving rise to its nicknames of the “Black Eye” or “Evil Eye” galaxy. Fine details of the dark band are revealed in this image of the central portion of M64 obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope. M64 is well known among amateur astronomers because of its appearance in small telescopes. It was first cataloged in the 18th century by the French astronomer Messier. Located in the northern constellation Coma Berenices, M64 resides roughly 17 million light-years from Earth. Discovered 1779 by Edward Pigott. M64 is the famous Black Eye galaxy, sometimes also called the “Sleeping Beauty galaxy”. The conspicuous dark structure is a prominent dust feature obscuring the stars behind. This feature also enables one to determine, or at least estimate, which of the galaxy’s sides is nearer and which more remote; in case of M64, it seems that the southern side is nearer to us. J.D. Wray, in his Color Atlas of Galaxies, points out that M64 may be taken as prototype for a class of galaxies called “ESWAG”, for Evolved Second Wave (star forming) Activity Galaxy. As becomes evident in color photos, the main spiral pattern is consisted of an intermediate aged stellar population. Stellar formation has first evolved outside following the density gradient, forming stars as long as there was sufficient interstellar matter available, and then dying out slowly. As the matter was flowing back from the evolved stars, by stellar wind, supernovae, and planetary nebula activity, more and more interstellar matter could accumulate again, so that finally there was enough matter to start the formation of new young stars again. This second wave of star formation has apparently reached now the region where the dark dust lane appears. The dust feature is well visible even in smaller telescopes. M64 was recently shown to have two counterrotating systems of stars and gas in its disk: The inner part of about 3,000 light years radius is rubbing along the inner edge of the outer disk, which rotates opposite and extends up to at least 40,000 light years, at about 300 km/sec. This rubbing process is probably the reason for the observed vigorous star formation process, which is currently under way, and can be observed as the blue knots imbedded in the peculiar dust lane on one side of the nucleus. It is speculated that this peculiar disk and dust lane may be caused by material from a former companion which has been accreted but has yet to settle into the mean orbital plane of the disk.

[M85]

85 elliptical galaxy, Coma Berenices is the home of M85, a lenticular galaxy that is part of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. It is very similar in appearance and brightness to M84. It was the site of a supernova in 1960 that reached a magnitude of 11.7. This galaxy is located some 60 million light years from Earth and is believed to have a diameter of around 125,000 light years. It appears to be composed almost entirely of old yellow stars and is receding from us at about 700 km/sec. As with M84, this galaxy is a disappointing sight in anything but a large telescope.

[M88]

88 spiral galaxy, One of the brighter members of the Virgo cluster is the spiral galaxy, M88. Located about 60 million light years from Earth, this galaxy is inclined approximately 30 degrees to our line of sight. This gives it an elongated visual appearance which resembles that of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31. M88 is believed to be nearly 130,000 light years in diameter and is receding away from us at about 2000 km.sec. This is one of the more rewarding galaxies in the Virgo cluster for observers using small instruments. A large telescope will bring out some of the more subtle details.

[M91]

91 spiral galaxy, Located in the constellation of Coma Berenices is a small, dim galaxy known as M91. Until recently, this galaxy had been missing. Messier’s notes had given the wrong position for this object. An amateur astronomer from Texas finally figured out its true location in 1969. This galaxy is classified as a barred spiral. The center part of the galaxy displays a prominent bar-shape, which can be seen even in small telescopes. M91 is a member of the Virgo cluster of galaxies and it located about 60 million light years from Earth. It is receding from us at a rate of 400 km/sec. With a magnitude of only 10.2 it is best observed with a large telescope.

[M98]

98 spiral galaxy, M98 is a small, dim galaxy located in the constellation of Coma Berenices. It is a member of the Virgo cluster of galaxies, which contains a total of 16 galaxies from the Messier catalog. It is one of the most difficult galaxies in the cluster to observe. Some astronomers believe that this could actually be a foreground object and not actually a member of the cluster, but there is no compelling evidence to support this claim. It is located about 60 million light years from Earth and is approaching us at a rate of 1200 km/sec. M98 is a spiral galaxy situated nearly edge-on to our line of sight. This gives it an extremely elongated shape. It is best viewed with a large telescope.

[M99]

99 spiral galaxy, Another Virgo cluster member in Coma Berenices is a spiral galaxy known as M99. It is unusual in appearance in that its shape is very asymmetric. It is believed that this asymmetric shape is the result of a recent encounter of another member of the Virgo cluster. It is located about 60 million light years from Earth and is receding from us at an unusually high rate of 2324 km/sec. Three supernovae have been observed in this galaxy. One was seen in 1967 while two other occurred in 1972 and 1986. With a magnitude of only 9.9, this galaxy may be a difficult find for the binocular observer. Large telescopes will provide the best views.

[M100]

100 spiral galaxy, M100 is one of the brightest members of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. It is located in the constellation of Coma Berenices and is a beautiful example of a nearly face-on spiral galaxy. Visually, this galaxy has two bright spiral arms and several fainter arms. Color photographs reveal the young blue stars in these spiral arms. The galaxy has a slightly asymmetric shape which may be the result of interaction with neighboring galaxies. M100 can be located with a pair of binoculars, although the best detail can be seen with a large telescope.

Cygnus

 
[M29]

29 open cluster, M29 is a small, coarse group of stars in the constellation Cygnus. It is located about 7,000 light years from Earth. The cluster contains only six stars with a magnitude brighter than 9.5 which form a small, stubby dipper in the center. This is not a very impressive object when viewed in binoculars or small telescopes. Larger instruments will be needed to resolve the fainter stars in the cluster.

[M39]

39 open cluster, Located in the constellation Cygnus, M39 is a very loose cluster of about 30 stars. It lies only 800 light years from Earth, which makes it one of the closest open clusters in the sky. The cluster has a diameter of about 7 light years, and is believed to be over 250 million years old. With a visual magnitude of 5.2, it is a bright cluster although very loosely populated. This cluster is an easy target for binoculars and is best observed in telescopes at low power.

Draco

 
[M102]

102 is the last of the “missing” Messier objects. There is some uncertainty as to whether the galaxy pictured here is M102. Due to an 18th century error, M101 may have been misclassified as M102. It is widely believed that M102 may be a lenticular galaxy located in the constellation Draco. It is a is a dim object with a visual magnitude of only 9.9 and can be hard to find without dark skies and ideal observing conditions.

Gemini

 
[M35]

35 open cluster, Located in the constellation Gemini, M35 is a galactic cluster of around 200 stars. This cluster is 2,800 light years from us and has a diameter of about 24 light years. It is believed to be around 110 million years old, which makes it an intermediate-aged cluster. With an apparent diameter about the same as the full moon, M35 can easily be seen with the naked eye near the 3 “foot stars” of the constellation Gemini. It is best viewed with low-powered optical instruments.

Hercules

 
[M13]

13 Great Hercules Globular Cluster globular cluster, Also known as the Hercules cluster, M13 is perhaps the finest and most well-known globular cluster in the Northern hemisphere. It originally was discovered by Edmond Halley in 1714. Halley noted that the cluster could easily be seen with the naked eye on dark, moonless nights. As its common name would imply, M13 lies in the constellation Hercules. It is about 25,000 light years from us, and has an impressive diameter of about 150 light years.

[M92]

92 globular cluster, The constellation of Hercules is the site of a globular cluster known as M92. This cluster is located about 26,000 light years from Earth and has a diameter of around 85 light years. It is believed to be around 16 billion years old and is approaching us at a rate of 112 km/sec. This is an outstanding object, and with a magnitude of 6.4, it can actually be seen with the naked eye on a dark night. It is a prime candidate for observing with binoculars. A telescope will be able to resolve the individual stars in the cluster.

Hydra

 
[M48]

48 open cluster, Located in the constellation of Hydra, M48 is an open cluster of about 80 stars. 50 of these are brighter than magnitude 13 and are easily visible in binoculars and small telescopes. The cluster is easily visible to the naked eye under ideal observing conditions. M48 is about 23 light years in diameter and is located some 1,500 light years from Earth. Its age is estimated at about 300 million years.

[M68]

68 globular cluster, The constellation Hydra contains a globular cluster of stars known as M68. This cluster is around 140 light years in diameter and is located about 40,000 light years from Earth. This is a relatively small cluster that may be difficult to locate with binoculars. It is an easy target for any telescope 4-inches or larger.

[M83]

83 spiral galaxy, In the constellation Hydra can be found a spectacular face-on spiral galaxy. This is M83, the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy. It earned its name from the distinct pinwheel shape of its long spiral arms. Color photographs of this galaxy reveal a wide range of colors from the yellow central core of old stars to the blue spiral arms of young stars. Several red knots can also be seen These are gaseous nebulae where active star formation is taking place. Dark lanes of dust are also visible throughout the galaxy’s disk. M83 is situated about 15 million light years from Earth. It is receding from us at around 337 km/sec. This galaxy has been the site of six supernovae, which is more than any other Messier galaxy. It was also the first galaxy to be discovered beyond the local group.

Leo

 
[M65]

65 spiral galaxy, Located in the constellation of Leo is a small triplet of galaxies. One of its members is M65. This is a spiral galaxy located about 35 million light years from us. It has an obvious elliptical shape, due to the fact that we are viewing it from an angle. The galaxy’s magnitude of 9.3 may make it a bit challenging to find with binoculars, but it is an easy target for the telescope. As is the rule with most galaxies, bigger is definitely better. The light gathering power of a large telescope will reveal much more detail in the galaxy’s disk.

[M66]

66 spiral galaxy, Another member of this triplet of galaxies in Leo is a spiral galaxy known as M66. This galaxy is much larger than its close neighbor, M65. Its visual appearance is a bit unusual in that its spiral is irregular in shape. The galaxy’s spirals are believed to have been deformed by close encounters with its neighbors. M66 islocated about 35 million light years from Earth. Its magnitude of 8.9 makes it a little easier to observe with binoculars. A good telescope and dark skies will reveal some of the detail in this glaxy.

[M95]

95 spiral galaxy, Leo is also the constellation in which the spiral galaxy, M95, can be found. It is a member of a small group of galaxies known as the M96 group. This is a barred spiral galaxy with a visual magnitude of 9.7. It is located about 38 million light years from Earth. Visually, it shows a definite bar-shaped center with nearly circular spiral arms. Because of this, it has also been referred to as a ringed galaxy. This is not a very bright object, and may be a difficult target for binoculars. Telescopes will provide the best viewing.

[M96]

96 spiral galaxy, Yet another galaxy to be seen in the constellation of Leo is M96. It is the brightest member of the M96 group of galaxies, with a visual magnitude of 9.2. This object is located about 38 million light years from Earth and has a diameter of around 100,000 light years. Visually it has a bright inner disk composed of old yellow stars surrounded by blue knots of young stars. It is inclined about 35 degrees to our line of sight, which gives it a slightly elongated appearance. Although it can be spotted with binoculars on a good night, a telescope is required to see any real detail in this galaxy.

[M105]

105 elliptical galaxy, M105 is the brightest member of a group of galaxies in the constellation of Leo known as the M96 group. It is an elliptical galaxy located about 38 million light years from Earth. This object was discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1781. It was found 3 days earlier than M101 but was not included in the original publication of Messier’s catalog. With a visual magnitude of only 9.3, this galaxy is best observed in a 4-inch or larger telescope.

Lepus

 
[M79]

79 globular cluster, The constellation Lepus is the site of a beautiful globular cluster known as M79. This cluster is unusual because of its location in the sky. Most globular clusters are grouped near the center of our galaxy. This one is much closer to us. It is only only 40,000 light years from Earth but 60,000 light years from the galactic center. It is believed to have a diameter of around 100 light years. It has a slightly elliptical shape and is receding from us at about 200km/sec. At magnitude 7.7, it is a bright object and should be relatively easy to spot in binoculars. A telescope is required to resolve the individual stars in the cluster.

Lyra

 
[M56]

56 globular cluster, In the constellation Lyra can be found a small, dim globular cluster known as M56. This cluster lacks the bright core that is visible in many other globulars. It is believed to have a diameter of only 60 light years, and is located about 45,000 light years from Earth. It is actually approaching us at a speed of about 145 km/sec. Due to its small size and magnitude of only 8.3, M56 is not a great object for the binocular astronomer. Telescopes larger than 10 inches can resolve the cluster quite nicely.

[M57]

57 The Ring Nebula planetary nebula, The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the sharpest view yet of the most famous of all planetary nebulae: the Ring Nebula (M57). In this October 1998 image, the telescope has looked down a barrel of gas cast off by a dying star thousands of years ago. This photo reveals elongated dark clumps of material embedded in the gas at the edge of the nebula; the dying central star floating in a blue haze of hot gas. The nebula is about a light-year in diameter and is located some 2, 000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Lyra. Discovered by Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in 1779. The famous ring nebula M57 is often regarded as the prototype of a planetary nebula, and a showpiece in the northern hemisphere summer sky. Recent research has confirmed that it is, most probably, actually a ring (torus) of bright light-emitting material surrounding its central star, and not a spherical (or ellipsoidal) shell, thus coinciding with an early assumption by John Herschel. Viewed from this equatorial plane, it would thus more resemble the Dumbbell Nebula M27 or the Little Dumbbell Nebula M76 than its appearance we know from here: We happen to view it from near one pole. This is contrary to the belief expressed e.g. in Kenneth Glyn Jones’ book. There are even indications from investigations of deep observations such as George Jacoby’s deep photos obtained at Kitt Peak National Observatory that the overall shape might be more that of a cylinder viewed along the direction of the axis than that of a ring, i.e., we are looking down a tunnel of gas ejected by a star at the end of its nuclear-burning life. Eventually, these observations have given evidence that the equatorial ring or cylinder has lobe-shaped extensions in polar directions, similar to those found in deep images of M76, but even more resembling other planetaries like NGC 6302, see e.g. the review by Sun Kwok (2000). The deep observations also show an extended halo of material extending off to over 3.5 arc minutes (Hynes gives 216 arc seconds, quoting Moreno & Lopez, 1987), remainders of the star’s earlier stellar winds. The halo was discovered in 1935 by J.C. Duncan (Duncan, 1935).

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Maza ’s Weblog » Sharp Starburst 13-05-2006, 13:36

[…] Source : Nasa. Full catalog : Messier catalog in pictures. Full catalog : Messier catalog full descriptions. […]

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Maza’s Weblog » Sharp Starburst 14-05-2006, 12:18

[…] Source : Nasa. Full catalog : Messier catalog in pictures. Full catalog : Messier catalog full descriptions. […]

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