M60

M60

Messier 60 or M60 (also designated NGC 4649) is a elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.8 and its angular diameter is 7x6 arc-minutes. M60 lies at an estimated distance of 60 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 12h 43.7m, Dec= +11° 33´ which makes M60 best seen during the spring. The Messier Spring Star Chart shows the position of all Messier objects visible during that season.

The image above shows the uncropped view of M60, M58, and M59 through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is up). A 3x enlargement of this image centered on M60 appears to the right. It also shows the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 4647.

In spite of its inclusion in the Messier Catalog, this elliptical galaxy was actually discovered by J. G. Koehler in 1779. Along with M49 and M87, it is one of the giant elliptical galaxies of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. The neighboring spiral galaxy NGC 4647 is gravitationally perturbed by M60. According to Stoyan et al. (2010), the distance of M60 is 53.2 million light years and its diameter is 115,000 light years.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M60 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M60

April 15, 1779
`Nebula in Virgo, a little more distinct than the two preceding [M58 and M59], on the same parallel as epsilon [Virginis], which has served for its [position] determination. M. Messier reported it on the Chart of the Comet of 1779. He discovered these three nebulae while observing this Comet which passed very close to them. The latter passed so near on April 13 and 14 that the one and the other were both in the same field [of view] of the refractor, and he could not see it; it was not until the 15th, while looking for the Comet, that he perceived the nebula. These three nebulae don't appear to contain any star.'

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