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[M 61]

Messier 61

Observations and Descriptions

Discovered on May 5, 1779 by Barnabus Oriani.
Indepedently discovered on May 11, 1779 by Charles Messier (who had also seen it on May 5).

Messier: M61.
May 11, 1779. 61. 12h 10m 44s (182d 41' 05") +5d 42' 05"
Nebula, very faint & difficult to perceive. M. Messier mistook this nebula for the Comet of 1779, on the 5th, 6th & 11th of May; on the 11th he recognized that this was not the Comet, but a nebula which was located on its path & in the same point [place] of the sky.

May 5, 1779
Very pale and looking exactly like the comet [1779 Bode, C/1779 A1].

William Herschel: H I.139.
I.139. April 17, 1785.
eB. vBN. r. 6 or 7' dia.
Extremely bright. Very bright nucleus. Resolvable [mottled, not resolved]. 6 or 7' diameter.

John Herschel (1833): h 1202.
h 1202 = M61 = H I.139.
Sweep 141 (April 7, 1828)
RA 12h 13m 12.8s, NPD 84d 34' 55" (1830.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
B; v L; v s b M to a * 11m, with a F atmosphere about it. This nebula is probably identical to I. 139. (See fig. 69.)
Bright; very large; very suddenly brighter toward the middle to a star of 11m, with a faint atmosphere about it. This nebula is probably identical to H I. 139. (See fig. 69.)

Sweep 142 (April 9, 1828)
RA 12h 13m 13.7s, NPD 84d 34' 56" (1830.0)
B nucleus in a v F atmosph 2' diam, gradually fading away
Bright nucleus in a very faint atmosphere of 2' diameter, gradually fading away.

Sweep 143 (April 10, 1828)
Viewed; v faintly bicentral. The two nuclei 90" dist pos 45..50 deg nf.
Viewed; very faintly bicentral. The two nuclei are 90" distant in position angle 45..50 deg north following [NE].


[Figure on Plate XV, Figure 69, No. 1202, M. 61 = I. 139, RA 12h 13m 13s, NPD 84d 35']
Plate XV. Fig. 68-79. - Double Nebulae.

Smyth: CCCCXLII [442]. M61.
CCCCXLII. 61 M. Virginis.
AR 12h 13m 45s, Dec N 5d 21'.6
Mean Epoch of Observation: 1837.26 [Feb 1837]
A large pale-white nebula, between the Virgo's shoulders. This is a well defined object, but so feeble as to excite surprise that Messier detected it with his 3 1/2 foot telescope in 1779. Under the best action of my instrument it blazes towards the middle; but in H. [John Herschel]'s reflector it is faintly seen to be bicentral [an illusion caused by the bar], the nuclei 90" apart, and lying sp [south preceding, SW] and nf [north following, NE]. It is preceded by four telescopic stars, and followed by another. Differentiated with the following object [17 Virginis], from which it bears about south by west, and is within a degree's distance.
This object is an outlier of a vast mass of discrete but neighboring nebulae, the spherical forms of which are indicative of compression.

John Herschel, General Catalogue: GC 2878.
GC 2878 = h 1202 = H I.139 = M61.
RA 12h 14m 45.1s, NPD 84d 44' 55.3" (1860.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
vB; vL; vsbM*; biN. 5 observations by W. & J. Herschel.
Very bright; very large; very suddenly much brighter toward the middle which is starlike; binuclear.
Remark: 2878 = h. 1202 = I.139 = M.61. Discovered by Oriani. N.B. The first discoverers of the nebulae in Messier's list, when not Messier himself, are mentioned by M. Auwers in his catalogue of those nebulae (pp. 66-71), except in the cases of Oriani's nebulae, M.14?, 18?, 35?, 61, 67 [Actually, Oriani did not discover M14, 18, 35 and 67 before Messier].
Figure in P.T. 33 [JH 1833], plate vii., fig. 69.

Dreyer: NGC 4303.
NGC 4303 = GC 2878 = h 1202 = H I.139; Oriani, M 61.
RA 12h 14m 46s, NPD 84d 45.0' (1860.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
vB, vL, vsbM*, biN; = M61
Very bright, very large, very suddenly much brighter toward the middle which is starlike, binuclear.
Remark: Figure in P.T. 33 [JH 1833], plate XV, fig. 69; P.T. 61 [Lord Rosse 1861], plate XXVII, fig. 21.

[Descriptions of 762 Nebulae and Clusters photographed with the Crossley Reflector. Publ. Lick Obs., No. 13, Part I, p. 9-42]
NGC 4303, RA=12:16.8, Dec=+ 5: 2. [Publ. Lick Obs.] Vol. VIII, Plate 34. M. 61. Nearly round; 6' in diameter; very bright. A beautiful spiral, with a very bright, almost stellar nucleus, and many almost stellar condensations in its open, somewhat irregular whorls. 40 s.n.
  • Observing Reports for M61 (IAAC Netastrocatalog)

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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    Last Modification: February 19, 2005