1781 – Messier 85, a lenticular (elliptical if you prefer) galaxy, was discovered on this day in 1781 by Pierre Méchain. It can be found in the constellation Coma Berenices (named after the Egyptian queen Berenice II) and is about 60 million light years away, making it the northernmost galaxy in the Virgo Cluster, a collection of somewhere between 1,200 and 2,000 galaxies, on the periphery of which is our own local group.
There are hundreds of beautiful photographs of all manner of galaxies on the internet, but M85 is very under-represented by legal entities with relaxed media sharing policies, hence the above.
1861 – Asteroid 64 Angelina discovered from Marseilles by Ernst Tempel. Angelina is an E-type (containing enstatite) with a very high albedo (0.28) compared to many other asteroids. It is named after an astronomical station operated by the Hungarian astronomer Franz Xaver von Zach. For discovering Angelina (and 65 Cybele) Tempel received the ‘Lalande Prize’ from the French Académie des sciences.
1892 – M-type (mainly metallic) main belt asteroid 325 Heidelberga was discovered today by Max Wolf. If you’ve been following these pages closely the choice of name should come as no surprise, being the location of most, if not all, of Wolf’s discoveries. Heidelberga is reasonably large, at approximately 75 km in diameter. Fuller details of Heidelberga’s physical and orbital characteristics can be found in the NASA JPL Small-Body Database browser.
1904 – Birth of George Gamow, cosmologist, and early champion of the Big Bang theory.
1923 – Birthday of Patrick Moore, amateur astronomer extraordinaire.
This post originally appeared in 2015, and was slightly updated in 2017.