Messier 74 or M74 (also designated NGC 628) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Pisces. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 9.4 and its angular diameter is 10.2x9.5 arc-minutes. M74 lies at an estimated distance of 35 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 1h 36.7m, Dec= +15° 47´ which makes M74 best seen during the autumn. The Messier Autumn Star Chart shows the position of all Messier objects visible during that season.

The image above shows the uncropped view of M74 through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is to right). A 3x enlargement of this image appears to the right.

This symmetric face-on spiral galaxy was discovered by P. Méchain in 1780. The 3rd Earl of Rosse included it in his list of 14 "spiral nebulae" in 1850. According to Stoyan et al. (2010), the distance of M74 is 25.1 million light years and its diameter is 77,000 light years. Its estimated mass is 300 billion solar masses.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M74 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M74

October 18, 1780
`Nebula without stars, near the star Eta Piscium, seen by M. Méchain at the end of September 1780, and he reports: "This nebula doesn't contain any stars; it is fairly large, very obscure, and extremely difficult to observe; one can recognize it with more certainty in fine, frosty conditions". M. Messier looked for it and found it, as M. Méchain describes it: it has been compared directly with the star Eta Piscium.'

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