M61 is one of the larger galaxies in the Virgo cluster. This spiral galaxy has a diameter of about 60,000 light-years. It was discovered by an Italian astronomer named B. Oriani in May 1779 while he was observing a comet. Charles Messier found it a few nights later when he was trying to find the same comet, and at first mistook it for the comet. Messier added this object to his list so he would not make the same mistake again. At least three stars in M61 have exploded as supernovae over the years, including supernovae recorded in 1926, 1961 and 1964. M61 has a nucleus that is abruptly brighter than the spiral arms.
M61 is rated at magnitude 9.3. The magnitude 12.9 galaxy to the lower left of M61 is NGC 4301. The magnitude 12.2 galaxy at the upper left is NGC 4292, and the faint magnitude 15.0 fuzzy spot immediately to the left of NGC 4292 is NGC 4292A. The small magnitude 15.1 spiral galaxy at the left edge of this image is PGC 39951. A swarm of tiny faint galaxies can be detected in this image, such as PGC 39967 (magnitude 16.9), PGC 1266560 (magnitude 17.8), PGC 1264996 (magnitude 18.0), in a line extending to the right of M61.
This is an RGB color composite CCD image taken with an SBIG STL-11000M CCD at prime focus on a Takahashi FCT-150 refractor at f7. The image was taken from my backyard in Scottsdale, Arizona.
M61 (NGC 4303)
RA: 12h 21m 55s Dec: +04d 28' 22" (J2000)
December 30, 2008
Image by Sid Leach
Complete list of images.
Description of equipment used to acquire images.
Feedback and comments should go to Sid