For many observers spring (fall in the southern hemisphere) means galaxies. Of course galaxies are profusely scattered across all the sky and accessible at every time of the year. But the spring into early summer months in the north bring into view the largest visual concentration of these behemoths in the region of sky between
Since so many are working toward their
The approach will be to split this project into three parts, or groups of galaxies. I will call them the Main Group, which contains M60, M59, M58, M89, M90, M87, M86 and M84. The next I will call the Northern Group, containing M85, M100, M98, M99, M88 and M91. Lastly, we will look at the Southern Group, which has our two remaining galaxies, M49 and M61. There are various ways to attack this chore, but I will lay out what I hope will be a logical and very useful way for anyone to complete their run of the
One thing to remember is that you in all likelihood will notice many other galaxies in this part of the sky besides the ones we are looking for here. Don’t let them distract you to the point that you lose sight of the goal of this exercise. Log any you can positively identify, and save the rest for future ventures into the realm of galaxies. The
So, let’s begin our journey with the Main Group. You will have to find your way to magnitude 2.8 Vindemiatrix (Epsilon Virginis). Starting here on the below chart, we will slip just over 3.5° to the west-northwest to pick up the magnitude 6.1 star 34 Virginis. Almost 1° southwest of this star, you should stumble upon your first object, M60. In a low power eyepiece, both 34 Vir and M60 should be within the same field of view. This elliptical should appear as an out of round glow that may exhibit some broad core brightness. Only about 25’ west of M60, you should also discern M59, within the same field. Another elliptical, it should appear as a bright oval glow (depending upon your skies), with definite brightness within its core.
Continuing in the same direction from M60 through M59 for just a little over 1° you should bump right into the face-on barred spiral M58. This galaxy should present a bright oval glow, again with a bright core region. Our trip now swings more directly to the northwest for just a little less than 1° until we come to another elliptical, M89. This elliptical should present a fairly bright round disk. However, this is predominantly its central region, and if one is under darker skies, it may appear more oval as the dimmer extensions become visible. The next leg is to the north-northeast for only about 40 arc minutes where we should find M90, a spiral inclined toward our direction. Another fairly bright galaxy, it should present a very obvious oval shape, and may even display a star-like core at its center.
We now have just three more to go to wrap up the Main Group of our journey. Let’s slip to the southwest from M90 for just over 1.5° to the giant elliptical M87. You will notice the 8.6 magnitude star HD 108915 just to its north. This bright and large galaxy will appear mostly rounded to the eye, with a bright central region as is typical of elliptical galaxies. We now will sweep west-northwest for less than 1.5° to the elliptical M86, and just about 16’ to its west-southwest you will find the elliptical M84. As one can easily see, it is at times easier to employ galaxy hopping rather than star hopping because of the nearness of the targets to one another. This fine pair of galaxies stands out within a field rife with smaller and dimmer galaxies. Both are fairly bright and out of round in shape, with brighter core regions embedded within.
Congratulations, if you’ve made it this far you have checked off half of the
Now that we have the first group under our collective belts, let’s move on to the Northern Group of six galaxies. We begin this sweep at the magnitude 4.7 star 11 Comae Berenices. I will leave it to your own discretion as to how to find this star, but it is just over 8° northeast of magnitude 2.2 Denebola (Beta Leonis) or about 12° northwest of Vindemiatrix. Once you are centered on 11 Com, look at the chart below and follow along.
Starting at 11 Com we will slide a little over 1° to the northeast in order reach the lenticular galaxy M85. This is another obvious fairly bright oval glow with a noticeable core brightness. Now, backtrack to 11 Com and continue to the south-southeast for a little over 1° to reach magnitude 6.7 HD 107612. Follow this same line for just less than 1° further and the face-on barred spiral M100 should ease into view. This barred spiral should appear as a noticeably bright thick oval disk. From M100, let’s track for just over half a degree to the southwest to reach 6.5 HD 107415, and on for just under a degree more to reach another magnitude 6.5 star, HD 106926. Continuing along this line of travel for nearly half a degree more brings us to the star 6 Com (mag 5.1). Now we turn due west for about another half degree and we should find the edge-on barred spiral M98. This galaxy presents a fairly bright thin elongated oval.
After M98, we will backtrack to 6 Com to continue our journey. Moving to the southeast from 6 Com for just less than 1°, the face-on spiral M99 should glide into the field of view as a fairly bright and large oval glow. In the same field just 10 arc minutes to the northeast you should see HD 107170 at mag 6.5. Now we move due east from that star for about 1.5° to the mag 8.0 HD 108301. Then just under 1° further to the east we will bump into HD 108775 at mag 7.3. These movements are quicker in reality than it takes to describe them of course, and just about half a degree east-southeast of the last star you will find the spiral M88. This fairly bright and large oval should be clearly evident. To wrap up the northern group, we look almost 1° east of M88 where we find the face-on spiral M91. A large thick oval glow, this fairly bright galaxy should exhibit a noticeably bright core. There you have it. If all is good so far, you now have bagged 14 of the 16
We have conquered all but two of our targets now. So for the final southern group, we will begin again at mag 2.8 Epsilon Vir (Vindemiatrix). Moving southwest for just over 5° brings us to our jump off point, 32 Vir (mag 5.2). We now head west for 3.5° to find the mag 6.0 star HD 108985. In the same field of view just half a degree to the star’s northwest you should easily see the elliptical M49. This is a bright galaxy, pretty large in size and oval in shape. At a dark site I have even spotted it in an 8x50
Having observed those last two galaxies, you have now completed your mini-