Messier 66 or M66 (also designated NGC 3627) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Leo. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.9 and its angular diameter is 8x2.5 arc-minutes. M66 lies at an estimated distance of 35 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 11h 20.2m, Dec= +12° 59´ which makes M66 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 cropped view of M66 through the ASA N12 Corrected Newtonian Astrograph (North is to the right).
This spiral galaxy was discovered by Messier in 1780. Together with M65 and NGC 3628, the three galaxies are referred to as the Leo Triplet or the Trio in Leo. The spiral arms of M66 appear deformed due to the gravitational effects of its neighbor M65. According to Stoyan et al. (2010), the distance of M66 is 32.8 million light years and its diameter is 87,000 light years.
Messier's Description of M66
March 1, 1780
`Nebula discovered in Leo; its light is very faint and it is very close to the preceding [M65]: They both appear in the same field [of view] in the refractor. The comet of 1773 and 1774 has passed between these two nebulae on November 1 to 2, 1773. M. Messier didn't see them at that time, no doubt, because of the light of the comet.'
- Object: M66
- Other Names: NGC 3627
- Object Type: spiral galaxy
- Object Data: Apparent Magnitude = 8.9, Angular Size = 8x2.5 arc-minutes
- Object Position (Equinox 2000): RA= 11h 20.2m, Dec= +12° 59´, Constellation = Leo
- Date/Time: 2012 Mar 22 at 04:58 UTC
- Location: Bifrost Astronomical Observatory, Portal, AZ
- Mount: Astro-Physics 1200GTO
- Telescope: ASA N12 Corrected Newtonian Astrograph
- Camera: Canon EOS 550D (Rebel T2i) (modified with a Baader UV/IR filter)
- Field of View: 71.0 x 47.4 arc-minutes at 0.82 arc-sec/pixel (web version: 4.6 arc-sec/pixel)
- Exposure: 10 x 480s, f/3.6, ISO 800
- File Name: M66-A01w.jpg
- Processing (Adobe Camera Raw): Flat Field Subtraction, Noise Reduction, White Balance
- Processing (Photoshop CS5): Average Images, Curves, Noise Reduction, High Pass Filter, Unsharp Mask
- Original Image Size: 3454 × 5179 pixels (17.9 MP); 11.5" x 17.3" @ 300 dpi
- Rights: Copyright 2012 by Fred Espenak. All Rights Reserved. See: Image Licensing.