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Messier 49 - Galaxy in Virgo Astrophotography Tips & Pictures

M49 is an elliptical galaxy located 55.9 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. Being an elliptical galaxy, Messier 49 is the least visually interesting deep-sky object to capture, and so is not often imaged by amateur astrophotographers. M49 was the first object discovered in the famous Virgo cluster, and the brightest.

Object Designation: M49, NGC 4472

Also known as: N/A

Constellation: Virgo

Object Type: Elliptical Galaxy

Distance: 55.9 million light-years away

Magnitude: 8.4

Discovery: Charles Messier on February 19, 1771

M49 is easy to photograph and process, and is technically a good beginner astrophotography target if it wasn't for the lack of any exciting feature... Around Messier 49 you will find several other small galaxies, as it is almost always the case when targetting anything in the Virgo constellation.

M49 is best photographed in the Spring season. Below you'll see our photograph of M49 along with several useful bits of information.


M49 Astrophotography from a Dark Site

May 2023

We photographed the M49 galaxy from the dark skies of Utah Desert Remote Observatories with our 5" refractor telescope. We used a monochrome camera with just R, G, and B filters which were enough, as this area of the sky does not seem to have any narrowband signal anywhere. We spent a total of 5 hours total on it which is very short for us as we often aim for 20+ hours when we do astrophotography. In this case, there seemed to be no point in shooting more data than that since there would be no extra detail or faint gas to bring out.

Below you can see our final processed image of Messier 49.

M49 galaxy astrophotography in RGB


Camera: QHY600M

Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130

Mount: 10Micron GM1000 HPS

Accessories: Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser / Pegasus Astro Ultimate Powerbox

Processing: Pixinsight with RC-Astro plugins


Total Exposure Time: 5 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 300 seconds

Gain: 56


How to Find Messier 49

How to find M49 in the sky, map

Messier 49 is an elliptical galaxy located at a distance of just about 56 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo. It has a diameter of approximately 157,000 light-years, which is slightly less than the famous Andromeda Galaxy.

To locate M49, start by locating the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo. Then, follow an imaginary line from Spica towards the northeast. M49 can be found past the star Porrima.

The galaxy contains billions of stars, and has an apparent magnitude of around 8.4, making it challenging to observe with the naked eye. From a dark site, it should be visible with large binoculars or a telescope, but do not expect to see much more than a dot of light.

Other Messier objects can be found very close to M49, like M60, and objects from the Markarian's Chain like M84, M86, and M87.


Messier 49 by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope

NASA and ESA captured M49 in late 2017, and shared the image you see below. It was photographed using the Hubble Space Telescope, which was centered on the elliptical galaxy.

It is known that Messier 49 contains an enormous amount of globular clusters. Scientists believe that the number is approximately 5,900, which is much, much more than the 200 globular clusters present in our Milky Way galaxy!

M49 galaxy by the Hubble Space Telescope


Processing Messier 49

Processing M49 was easy, because there is simply nothing you can mess up! The galaxy has not detail to start with, and there aren't any specific colors or gasses visible anywhere in the field of view. Honestly, you can't mess this up.

Below you can see what a raw 300-second shot looks like using our Red, Green, and Blue filters.

Messier 49 single 300s shots RGB

The only thing you'll want to be careful about is the fact that dozens of much smaller galaxies are visible in the background.

These can be better seen in the starless image which you can view below. It has been cropped on the most interesting region of our image. As you can see, the background galaxies are of all different shapes and sizes, with some looking great like the squiggly one at the bottom!. Do your best to keep these galaxies looking natural and not over-processed.

Messier 49 starless

Astrophotography Tips for Processing Images

f you're curious about how we process all of our images, we've put together several complete guides for you. They include several lessons, tutorial videos, and our own custom PixInsight presets as well as raw data. These guides are designed to let you follow along step-by-step and are perfect to practice your processing skills. Access the guides here.


Messier 49 FAQ

  • Which constellation is Messier 49 located in?

You can find M49 in the constellation Virgo.

  • How big is M49?

The Messier 49 galaxy has an apparent size of 13 arc-minutes and a true diameter of 157,000 light-years.

  • How far is Messier 49?

M49 lies approximately 56 million light-years away from Earth.

  • How many stars are in M49?

Messier 49 contains billions of stars, all tightly packed together in an elliptical shape.

  • How long should my exposure time be for this object?

M49 is an elliptical galaxy, so individual stars are not going to be visible and no details will be able to come out of your data. We suggest doing between 3 and 5-minute exposures.

  • Should I use a filter to image M49?

Messier 49 is a broadband target as well, so you can image it without any filter.

  • What equipment do I need to photograph Messier 49?

A telescope with a long focal length will be a good choice for imaging M49.

The Askar FRA600 can be a nice telescope for the price if you're a beginner looking for a good focal length instrument for M49 and most other popular targets.


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Final Thoughts

Messier 49 is an easy and quick object, and can be done as a secondary target to capture during the night. We only spent 5 hours on it which is more than enough, and didn't bother with specific filters. We're glad that we have now captured this object for our Messier catalog!

Have you captured M49 in the past? Include your picture in the comments below along with some information about your gear so that everyone can see it!

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

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter

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