Messier 77 (NGC 1068 and Arp 37) is a formidable spiral galaxy in Cetus that presents face-on to our Earthly perspective. Apart from Native Group heavyweights Messier 31 and Messier 33, maybe solely Messier 74 in Pisces can declare bragging rights over it.
Messier 77 is classed as a type-II Seyfert galaxy, a category of energetic galaxies vibrant at infrared wavelengths and powered by intense radiation blasted out from an accretion disc round a supermassive black gap at their coronary heart. Although Seyfert galaxies are much less energetic than quasars, Messier 77 is definitely very luminous throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s additionally one of many closest energetic galaxies, mendacity round 45 million mild years away.
Messier 77 shines with an built-in magnitude of +8.8 and will be positioned by way of a big finderscope or a pair of binoculars. It provides up its secrets and techniques solely grudgingly to visible observers, however imagers can be delighted with what Messier 77’s knowledge yields.
The best way to observe
Messier 77 is positioned within the north-eastern quadrant of the largely southern constellation of Cetus, the Sea Monster, whose northern extremities are fairly well-placed from UK shores.
Cetus’ most important hexagonal-shaped asterism (which types the pinnacle of the monster) is discovered within the constellation’s far north-east quadrant and consists of third- to fourth-magnitude stars, together with magnitude +2.5 Menkar (alpha [α] Ceti] and magnitude +3.5 Kaffaljidhma (gamma [γ] Ceti). Messier 77 is definitely positioned simply over three diploma south of Kaffaljidhma. At mid-November, Messier 77 culminates at about 11pm and achieves an altitude of almost 40 levels from London.
A small telescope reveals Messier 77 as a really small although high-surface-brightness spot of sunshine. Beginner photographs present the galaxy extends to six.9’ x 5.9’ and seems like a ‘galaxy inside a galaxy’, with its three-arcminute-wide oval centre exhibiting intense spiral construction surrounded by a lot fainter, sweeping spiral arm.
Visible observers will battle to see something aside from the brilliant central area until observing by way of a telescope of at the least 300–350mm (12 to 14 inches) in aperture.
Messier 77 additionally provides its title to a small group of galaxies, which embody, amongst others, close by NGC 1055 (see the Deep-Sky tour in Astronomy Now October 2021), NGC 1073, UGC 2161, UGC 2275 and UGC 2302.