Messier 68 or M68 (also designated NGC 4590) is a globular cluster in the constellation Hydra. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 7.8 and its angular diameter is 12 arc-minutes. M68 lies at an estimated distance of 33,300 light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 12h 39.5m, Dec= -26° 45´ which makes M68 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 M68 through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is up). The bright star located 1/2 degree southwest of M68 is HR 4803 (magnitude 5.40). A 3x enlargement of this image centered on M68 appears to the right.

This globular cluster was discovered by Messier in 1780. According to Recio-Blanco et al.(2005), the distance of M68 is 36,580 light years and its diameter is 120 light years. It contains 42 variable stars.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M68 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M68

April 9, 1780
`Nebula without stars below Corvus and Hydra; it is very faint, very difficult to see with the refractors; near it is star of sixth magnitude.'

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