|Date: ||Thu, 01 Jun 1995, 20:44:51 -0500 (EST)
||Tony Cecce, Corning, NY
|Subject: ||June Messier Tour
Twelve Month Tour of the Messier Catalog
This month we attack the heart of the
Virgo cluster of galaxies. We will
be hunting 13 galaxies all within less than 100 square degrees of sky.
The brightest of these galaxies, M87, is only 8.6 in total magnitude so this
will be a telescope only month. Plan on searching for small faint fuzzies,
dark skies are a must.
June Messier Objects
Successfully navigating the Virgo cluster is the biggest challenge in the
Messier Catalogue, and is affectionately known as "Heartbreak Ridge" to
marathoners. What makes the Virgo cluster such a challenge is the closeness
of the Messier objects to each other, and the large number of other galaxies
in this region. It is easy to become lost among the galaxies, and not be
able to tell which one you are looking at. Here are several tips that can
be of use as you navigate your way through the cluster.
- Get a good chart of the region that shows not only the M objects, but also
the brighter NGC galaxies. You should also have pictures of the objects in
the region to help in confirmation of a sighting.
- Use low power while searching. When you find an object you can switch to
higher powers to see more detail.
- Avoid large aperature scopes. Small telescopes 6"-8" in size make finding
the M-objects easier. Large scopes will show many of the other faint
galaxies and may help you become disoriented. Same is true for sky darkness.
Minimal light pollution will also help to "filter out" the dimmer galaxies
from the brighter Messier objects. In my moderately light polluted back
yard with an 8" scope I can find the Messier objects easily, but can barely
see the other galaxies. Of course to really enjoy and get the most out of
any galaxy you want the largest scope and darkest skies you can find.
- Plot your paths through the cluster, including a "home base". Your
home base should be an easily recognizable M-object or field in the cluster.
This will be the starting point for any excursions you plan, and a place to
return to should you become lost. I use M84, M86 as my home base. I can
find this pair of galaxies easily by pointing my accurately aligned telrad
on the midpoint of a straight line from Denebola (beta leonis) to
Vindemiatrix (epsilon virginis). This matched pair of small fuzzy balls
will both be within a low power field of view every time I do this.
I've heard of other people using M87 as their home reference because of
The paths I like to use are
M84,M86 -> M87 -> M89,M90 -> M91 -> M88
|----> M87 -> M89 -> M58 -> M59,M60
|----> M99 -> M98 -> M100
- As you move from an identified object in search of a new object keep track
of how far you have travelled. At low power the most you should have to move
between objects is 3 or 4 fields of view. If you go much farther than that
go back to your last object or all the way back to home.
- Have patience and keep trying. Getting to know this area of sky is very
rewarding. Under dark skies and with a large scope I can easily get seven
galaxies into the same field of view. An amazing sight to behold.
- Remember, you are looking for light that left it's source about 70 million
years ago. Most of these objects at low power are not much more than dim,
fuzzy, out of focus looking stars. Allow your eyes to become fully dark
adapted and take your time looking at each field. When done with this
challenge be sure to swing over to M3 or M13 to let your photon starved
retinas feast on a real meal.
- M49, M51, M61, M63, M64, M85, M94, M101, M102, M104
- A pair of small fuzzy balls with bright, almost stellar cores. Both
easily fit into the same low power field of view. M86 is slightly brighter
and more oval than round M84.
- Another round fuzzy ball with a bright core. Slightly brighter than
both M84 and M86.
- Both of these galaxies fit into the same low power field of view.
M89 is another round fuzzy ball similar to M84, while M90 appears as an oval
patch of light larger than M89. M90 has a bright central region.
- A faint, slightly irregular oval hazy patch of light.
- A small oval shaped fuzzy patch with a bright stellar core. Similar
in size and shape to M90. Can fit into the same field of view as M91.
- A slightly oval shaped fuzzy patch of light with a bright central region.
- M59 and M60 can both easily fit into the same field of view. M59
is a small, hazy oval patch, not all that easy to see. M60 is another fuzzy
oval patch of light, larger and brighter than M59.
- A bright round fuzzy patch of light.
- This galaxy appears as a bright pencil like streak of light.
- A round hazy glow of light, bright in the center but gradually fading
towards the edge.
- M3, M4, M5, M53, M68, M80, M83
A. J. Cecce, rev. 1.0, 1995
Twelve Month Tour Index -
June tour in Ascii
Last Modification: 6 Apr 1998, 21:30 MEST