M59 & M60 - Two Elliptical Galaxies in Virgo

Updated: Apr 26


Messier 59 and Messier 60 are two elliptical galaxies in the constellation Virgo. Because of their type, they both look like bright blobs in the sky and are, to be honest, pretty boring looking. The reason why we find the image below very interesting is because of the dozens of other galaxies visible in the frame. Virgo is on of the busiest constellations in the sky and the area around these two Messier objects is definitely very active!


M59 and M60 are best photographed in Spring. Read our guide on the 15 best Astrophotography targets for Spring if you need some inspiration about what to image next!

Read through this post to learn more about this image, and see what the single shots looked like! You can also watch our short "New Entry" video on YouTube.

M59, M60 & Friends



GEAR USED:

Camera: ZWO ASI 071MC

Telescope: Meade 115mm APO

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Field Flattener/Focal Reducer: Meade 3" Flattener/Reducer

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR

Power: Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox

Processing: PixInsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 4 hours and 15 min

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

85 lights - 15 Darks

GAIN: 90



Messier 59 by the Hubble Space Telescope

Messier 59 is a rich and very large elliptical galaxy in Virgo. It can easily be seen with small telescopes but the object will not reveal any detail no matter the size of your instrument.


The photo on the left was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It is known that M59 contains more than 2,200 star clusters! Another interesting fact is that the 200-million light-year wide region around the core of the object rotates in the opposite direction as the rest of the galaxy.





Messier 60 by the Hubble Space Telescope

Messier 60, once again captured by the Hubble Space Telescope as seen on the right, is even more massive than M59 and is considered to be a "Giant". M60 is the third brightest member of the Virgo Cluster, outshone only by M49 and M87.

Messier 60 is bright enough to be seen with any telescope. It is nice to note that its core is home to one of the most massive black holes ever discovered! The fainter, spiral galaxy next to M60 (visible in Hubble's photo as well as ours if you zoom close enough) is NGC 4647. It is unsure if the two galaxies are interacting or if they are very distant from each other.





Below is a crop on both Messier objects as seen in our own photograph. We are pretty please with the result considering how small and featureless these two objects are! Our main objective was to be able to resolve NGC 4647, and it does look clear!



What do you think of these images? Would adding several hours of exposure change anything knowing there isn't any detail to be seen anyway? Let us know your thoughts!



How to find M59 and M60?

Both galaxies are visible through binoculars and telescopes, but not with the naked eye. Depending on the instrument, M81 will look like a blurry oval shape with a bright center, while M82 will appear as a thin line of light.


The pair are located in the constellation of the Big Dipper: Ursa Major. The easiest way to find them is to first spot the bright star Dubhe, which forms the top point of the Big Dipper pan, then travel about 10 degrees northwest to spot the two galaxies.

COOL FACTS
  • The pair M60 and NGC 4647 are also designated Arp 116

  • Both Messier objects were found on April 11, 1779 by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Koehler

  • NGC 4647 is about the same size as our own galaxy, the Milky Way


Single Shot & Processing of M59 & M60

Below we have attached what a single 3-minute shot of this area of the sky looked like, straight out of the camera.


This was taken from a Bortle 4 zone with our Meade 115mm APO telescope and ZWO ASI 071MC One-Shot-Color cooled camera. We did not use any filter. You can see our equipment fully installed and ready to go on the image on the left!


It was also our first time using this telescope, it felt a bit unfair to task it with dozens of galaxies for its first light, but it handled it all like a champ! We plan on using this telescope again for other galaxy clusters this season, and medium-sized nebulae in Summer.





As we said above, here is one of the 85 frames we captured that night on M59, M60 and friends!

3 minute single shot on M59 and M60

Processing was a little bit tricky. We did not take flats (as usual...) and this time, it was really noticeable. It was a challenge to even the background out and make sure everything looked nice but our basic PixInsight workflow took great care of it! You can download our PDF "follow-along" workflow for PixInsight HERE.


One of the other difficult parts of processing this image was to bring out the details in the tiny spiral galaxies visible in the frame without blowing up the bright ellipticals. This was achieved by zooming in all the way on M60 and NGC 4647 and playing with HDR Multiscale Transform as well as Curves to find the best possible combination.


New Entry Video

Below is our short video about capturing this part of the sky.



Final Thoughts

M59 & M60 are rarely photographed by amateur astrophotographers. We mostly wanted to capture those so that we could add both to our own Messier Catalog, but we are pleasantly surprised with the results and feel like they deserve some more love from the community!


So if you do not know what to image tonight (assuming it's still Spring when you are reading this), aim your telescope at these dozens of galaxies and photograph them! If you do, please attach your results to the comments section of this post so that we can all see what you achieved!


Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!

Clear Skies,

Antoine & Dalia Grelin

Galactic Hunter






GALACTIC HUNTER BOOKS

The Astrophotographer's Guidebook

Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!

The Astrophotographer's Journal

Description: The Astrophotographer’s Journal is a portable notebook created for the purpose of recording observations, cataloguing photographs, and writing down the wonderful memories created by this hobby. This book contains more than 200 pages to memorialize your stargazing and imaging sessions, as well as a useful chart on the last pages to index exciting or important notes. Read back on the logs to see how much progress you have made through the months, the problems you overcame, and the notes taken to improve in the future. Just as the pioneers of astronomy did in their time, look up and take notes of your observations as you are the author of this star-filled journey.

The Constellations Handbook

Description: The Constellations Handbook is a logical guide to learning the 88 constellations. Learning the constellations is difficult. Remembering them is even harder. Have you ever wanted to look up to the night sky, name any pattern of stars and be able to tell their stories? This book groups the constellations in a logical order, so that the reader can easily learn them by their origin, and see how their stories interact with one another as a group. The last pages of this book include an index of all 88 constellations, each with a slot where you can write your own personal tips and tricks in order to memorize them with ease. The Constellations Handbook is not just another guide listing all the constellations from A to Z and their location, it is the perfect companion for stargazing, and a learning journey through the ages.




#M59 #M60 #NGC4647 #Meade115mm #Meade #071MC

Gallery

Quick Links

Help

Social Media

  • Galactic Hunter Facebook
  • Galactic Hunter YouTube
  • Galactic Hunter Instagram
  • Galactic Hunter Amazon
  • Galactic Hunter Flickr
  • Galactic Hunter Twitter
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Flickr Social Icon

© 2016-2020 by Antoine Grelin.