FUZZY SPOT,  May 2002, Virgo

This month, we will be looking at Virgo, one of the sure signs of Spring.  And with Virgo, it means one thing, Galaxies!  In the SAC 6.2 Database, there are 676 galaxy entries, enough to keep an astronomer busy for a long time.  There are several reasons for this.  Virgo is the second largest constellation in the sky (only Hydra is larger), when looking at Virgo, you are looking "up" from the plane of the Milky Way, so there is less galactic dust to obscure the view, and when looking at Virgo, you are looking toward the large and fairly close Virgo cluster of galaxies.

With all these galaxies to choose from, I am going to stick with the Messier Objects.  This alone provides 11 galaxies to observe.  Many of these descriptions come from my early days of astronomy, so they are somewhat brief.  In one instance, I have more than one observation.  This helps illustrate how as one becomes more experienced on observing and note taking, the more one sees.  Unless otherwise specified, all of the observations were taken from my 10" F4.5 scope.

        M-49 (12 29.8 +08 01)  At 100X, I saw this galaxy as pretty bright, somewhat large, round, and with a much brighter middle.  The nucleus is uncertain.  To the SSE is a star and to SW is a faint galaxy (NGC 4470).  No other detail seen, not much.

        M-58 (12 37.8 +11 50)  This galaxy is pretty big, somewhat faint, has a slightly brighter middle and a slightly brighter non-stellar nucleus.  There is a possible elongation E/W.  The galaxy darkens up quicker on the S.  I suspected a counter-clockwise spiral structure, specifically on the N, and some possible mottling.  To the W is a bright star which interferes slightly and a second star to NE.

        M-59 (12 42.1 +11 39)  I saw this galaxy at 100X as somewhat bright, somewhat small, with a very gradually brighter middle and an occasional non-stellar nucleus.  There is a star or stellaring to the N of nucleus.  It is elongated slightly N/S.  There is a bright star to NW which does not interfere with viewing.  Using averted vision brings out the halo and stellaring.

        M-60 (12 43.7 +11 34)  Somewhat bright, somewhat large, with a gradually then suddenly much brighter middle, but without a nucleus seen.  It may be elongated N/S, and the middle may be offset to the E.  To the N is NGC 4647, which is about as bright as M-60, but is lacking the bright middle.

        M-61 (12 22.0 +04 29)  Somewhat bright, pretty large, with a halo that is pretty even, and no middle brightening except for a bright stellar nucleus.  A clockwise spiral structure is suspected. The shape is round.  Averted vision really helps bright out the details in this spectacular object.

        M-84 (12 25.1 +12 54)  This galaxy is pretty bright, somewhat small, much brighter in the middle, with a non-stellar nucleus.  Averted vision doesn’t do much.  If there is any elongation it is very slight WNW/ESE.  Not much here.

        M-86 (12 26.3 +12 57)  Nearby to M-84, this is pretty bright, somewhat small, contains a somewhat brighter middle, but not as much as

        M-84, non-stellar nucleus, round.  Very similar to M-86.

        M-87 (12 30.9 +12 24)  This galaxy is pretty bright, pretty big, smoothly brightens up to the middle, but no nucleus was seen.  It is round with no structure at all.  There are bright stars to NW and SE.  NGC 4478 and NGC 4476 are in same field.

        M-89 (12 35.7 +12 34)  At 100X this galaxy is somewhat bright, somewhat small, has a very much brighter middle and a suspected nucleus.  Round, averted vision makes it grow slightly.  There is a star on edge of halo on the NE.

        M-90 (12 36.9 +13 10)  Somewhat bright, pretty large, very elongated N/S, slightly brighter middle with a bright non-stellar nucleus.  Averted vision makes it fill out a little.  Possibly slightly darker on E side, maybe a dust lane?  One of the nicer Messier galaxies in this area.  To the NW is a nice triangle of stars.

        M-104 (12 39.9 -11 37)  This is the Sombrero galaxy.  I have three observations here, which I am including without any changes (no grammar corrections).  From the earliest to the most recent, they are:

M-104, the Sombrero.  I always like M-104, some nice star patterns around it.  107X I can see dark lane in it.  170X Harder to see. (20-May-95)
M-104 Sombrero Galaxy  100X Very bright, pretty large, much brighter middle, very elongated E/W.  Very prominent dark lane on S side, with galaxy re-appearing past the dust lane.  Averted vision really brings this out.  Quite a spectacular object.  Some nice field stars. (6-Apr-97)
M-104 180X in the 20" F5 scope. Very bright, pretty large, extremely elongated 6:1 E/W with a very prominent dark lane on the S side.  A nice bulge in the middle with a slow brightening and a very bright non-stellar nucleus.  A star is to the N and a brighter star to the WSW.  The halo is also seen on the S of the dark lane.  Very nice! (10-APR-99).

        Just to the WSW of the Sombrero galaxy across the border into Corvus is an interesting asterism of 6 stars, a small triangle inside a larger triangle.  Since I could find no designation for this grouping, I have dubbed it Reeves-2 (Reeves-1 is another grouping in Cepheus).

Herschel 400 Objects
4030, 4179, 4216, 4261, 4273, 4281, 4303, 4365, 4371, 4429, 4435, 4438, 4442, 4478, 4526, 4527, 4535, 4536, 4546, 4550, 4570, 4594, 4596, 4636, 4643, 4654, 4660, 4665, 4666, 4697, 4698, 4699, 4753, 4754, 4762, 4781, 4845, 4856, 4866, 4900, 4958, 4995, 5054, 5363, 5364, 5566, 5576, 5634, 5746, 5846
SAC’s 110 Best of the NGC Objects
4216, 4388, 4438, 4526, 4535, 4567, 4699, 4762, 5746