March 04 – Messier 85

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.

M85 (image credit: NOAO / AURA / NSF)

M85 (image credit: NOAO / AURA / NSF)

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.

 

April 04 – M85

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)

It is thought possible that M85 might be the result of two galaxies merging billions of years ago.


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.