Messier 88 or M88 (also designated NGC 4501) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 9.6 and its angular diameter is 7x4 arc-minutes. M88 lies at an estimated distance of 60 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 12h 32.1m, Dec= +14° 26´ which makes M88 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 M88 (right) and M91 (left) through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is up). A 3x enlargement of this image centered on M88 appears to the right.

This spiral galaxy was discovered by Messier in 1781 and is a bright member of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. 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 M88 is 57.2 million light years and its diameter is 115,000 light years. Its estimated mass is 250 billion solar masses.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M88 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M88

March 18, 1781
`Nebula without star, in Virgo, between two small stars and one star of the sixth magnitude, which appear at the same time as the nebula in the field of the telescope. Its luminosity is one of the faintest, and [it] resembles the one reported in Virgo, No. 58.'

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