M 61 (NGC 4303)

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Obj Type
Date Taken:
Mark Hanson
Messier 61

Discovered in 1779 by the Italian astronomer Barnaba Oriani, M61 is a barred spiral galaxy located in the constellation Virgo. Charles Messier noticed it on the same night as Oriani, but he mistook the galaxy for a passing comet. A member of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, M61 is roughly 55 million light-years away from Earth.

M61 is a type of galaxy known as a starburst galaxy. Starburst galaxies experience an incredibly high rate of star formation, hungrily using up their reservoir of gas in a very short period of time (in astronomical terms). But this is not the only activity going on within the galaxy; an X-ray source has been detected deep at its heart, leading astronomers to believe that a supermassive black hole sits at its core. This galaxy has also been host to seven observed supernovas — the most of any galaxy in the Messier catalog.

Technical Details
Exposure Time:
56 Hours
Finger Lakes PL 16803
RCOS Carbon Truss 16 inch f/11.3 Ritchey-Chretien
Planewave 200HR
© 2024 Mark Hanson
Used with permission, No reproduction of these images are permitted without written approval from Mark Hanson.