M32

M32

Messier 32 or M32 (also designated NGC 221) is a dwarf elliptical galaxy in the constellation Andromeda. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.1 and its angular diameter is 8x6 arc-minutes. M32 lies at an estimated distance of 2.9 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 0h 42.8m, Dec= +40° 52´ which makes M32 best seen during the autumn. The Messier Autumn Star Chart shows the position of all Messier objects visible during that season.

M32 is one of two elliptical satellite galaxies of the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) visible in the image above. M32 is the closer elliptical galaxy (along the lower edge of M31) while M110 is the more distant one (upper right). Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) itself is the brightest naked-eye spiral galaxy in the sky. M31, M32 and M110 are part of the Local Group of galaxies of which includes our own Milky Way Galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy (M33) and others.

The image above shows the uncropped view of M32, M31 and M110 through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is up). A 3x enlargement of this image centered on M32 appears to the right.

In spite of its inclusion in the Messier Catalog, this dwarf elliptical galaxy was actually discovered by G. Le Gentil in 1749. According to Stoyan et al. (2010), the distance of M32 is 2.57 million light years and its diameter is 6,500 light years. Its estimated mass is 3 billion solar masses.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M32 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M32

August 3, 1764
`Small nebula without stars, below and at some minutes [separation] from that of the belt of Andromeda [M31]; this small nebula is round, its light fainter than that of the belt. M. le Gentil has discovered it on October 29, 1749. M. Messier saw it, for the first time, in 1757, and he has not found any change.' (diam. 2')

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