Messier 77 or M77 (also designated NGC 1068) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Cetus. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.9 and its angular diameter is 7x6 arc-minutes. M77 lies at an estimated distance of 60 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 2h 42.7m, Dec= +00° 02´ which makes M77 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 M77 through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is to right). A 3x enlargement of this image appears to the right.

This spiral galaxy was discovered by P. Méchain in 1780 but Messier misidentified it as a cluster with nebulosity. Nevertheless, it is one of the biggest galaxies in the Messier Catalog. The 3rd Earl of Rosse included M77 in his list of 14 "spiral nebulae" in 1850. M77 is an active galaxy with an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) and is the brightest Seyfert galaxy. According to Stoyan et al. (2010), the distance of M77 is 46.9 million light years and its diameter is 100,000 light years. Its estimated mass is 1000 billion solar masses.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M77 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M77

December 17, 1780
`Cluster of small stars, which contains some nebulosity, in Cetus and on the parallel of the star Delta, reported of the third magnitude, and which M. Messier estimated to be hardly of the fifth. M. Méchain saw this cluster on October 29, 1780 in the form of a nebula.'

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