April 04 – Discovery of Messier 85 (1781)

1781  –  M85 (NGC 4382) was discovered on April 4th, 1781, by Pierre Méchain.

Messier 85 by the Hubble Space Telescope (image credit: NASA / ESA / STScI)
Messier 85 by the Hubble Space Telescope (image credit: NASA / ESA / STScI)

M85 measures approximately 125,000 light years across, and lies about 60 million light years away in the constellation of Coma Berenices. It is a member of the Virgo Cluster.

Location of M85 in Coma Berenices (image credit: freestarcharts.com)
Location of M85 in Coma Berenices (image credit: freestarcharts.com)

With a population of about 400 million mostly older stars, it is thought possible that M85 might be the result of two galaxies merging billions of years ago.It is designated as “lenticular”, which is like a spiral galaxy without the arms.


1858  –  Discovery by Robert Luther of Asteroid 53 Kalypso.


Kosmos 28 was launched on April 4th 1964.


1968 saw the launch, on this day, of Apollo VI to test the ability of the Saturn V to get an almost full payload to the Moon and back, and to repeat an earlier test of the Command Module’s heat shield. Apollo VI was the final unmanned launch of the program.

Launch of Apollo VI (image credit: NASA)
Launch of Apollo VI (image credit: NASA)

The flight was not without incident, caused in part by unusually strong vibrations shortly after lift-off. A couple of the engines shut down prematurely, necessitating a lower than expected “parking orbit”, and a lack of fuel on re-entry meant that the speed of a real lunar return could not be simulated.