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[M 60]

Messier 60

Observations and Descriptions

Discovered on April 11, 1779 by Johann Gottfried Koehler.
Independently discovered on April 12, 1779 by Barnabus Oriani.
Independently discovered on April 15, 1779 by Charles Messier.

Messier: M60.
April 15, 1779. 60. 12h 32m 28s (188d 06' 53") +12d 46' 02"
`Nebula in Virgo, a little more distinct than the two preceding [M58 and M59], on the same parallel as Epsilon [Virginis], which has served for its [position] determination. M. Messier reported it on the Chart of the Comet of 1779. He discovered these three nebulae while observing this Comet which passed very close to them. The latter passed so near on April 13 & 14 that the one & the other were both in the same field [of view] of the refractor, and he could not see it; it was not until the 15th, while looking for the Comet, that he perceived the nebula. These three nebulae don't appear to contain any star.'

April 11 and 13, 1779 [with M59]
"Two very small nebulae, hardly visible in a 3-foot telescope: The one above the other."

[Bode's announce of Koehler's discovery] "On the occasion of tracking the comet of this year [1779], on April 11 and 13, Mr. Köhler has discovered another two very small [faint] nebulae barely visible in the 3-ft Dollond telescope northwest in a triangle with Rho and the 34th star of Virgo, situated closely the one above the other, and on May 5, again three other somewhat nebulous stars in the area of the northern shoulder of Virgo, at quite a distance of each other."

April 12, 1779
"Very pale and looking exactly like the comet [1779 Bode, C/1779 A1]."

William Herschel
[Unpublished Observations of Messier's Nebulae and Clusters. Scientific Papers, Vol. 2, p. 658]
1784, March 15 (Sw. 174). Two nebulae, one of them very bright.
1784, April 17 (Sw. 199). Two nebula, the p. vF. S. (III.44) [the preceding very faint, small (H III.44 = NGC 4647)], the following which is the 60th of the Conn. des Temps, B. cL. [bright, considerably large].

John Herschel (1833): h 1408.
h 1408 = M60.
Sweep 19 (March 10, 1826)
RA 12h 35m 2.3s, NPD 77d 31' 18" (1830.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
B; R; b M. The brighter of a fine pair, the other is v F; E 30deg n p; 2 1/2' dist. (See fig. 74.)
Bright; round; brighter toward the middle. The brighter of a fine pair, the other [h 1405 = H III.44; NGC 4647] is very faint; extended in position angle 30deg north preceding [NW]; 2 1/2' distant. (See fig. 74.)

Sweep 22 (March 13, 1826)
RA 12h 35m 3.1s, NPD 77d 30' 35" (1830.0)
A double neb; a very fine and curious object. The p is v F the f v B; both large estimated dist of centres = 4'; pos 45deg n p.
A double nebula; a very fine and curious object. The preceding [Western one; NGC 4647] is very faint, the following [Eastern; M60] very bright; both [are] large, estimated distance of centers is 4'; position angle 45deg north preceding [NW].

Sweep 4 (May 9, 1825)
RA 12h 35m 3.9s:, NPD 77d 29' 39": (1830.0)
No description.

Sweep 191 (May 2, 1829)
RA 12h 35m 4.1s, NPD 77d 31' 10" (1830.0)
v B; R; has a v F oval neb n p; pos 30deg n p, dist 3' by estim
Very bright; round; has a very faint oval nebula north preceding; position angle 30deg north preceding [NW], distance 3' by estimate.

Sweep 338 (April 4, 1831)
RA 12h 35m 6.5s, NPD 77d 30' 49" (1830.0)
B; R; v s m b M; 90"; the s f of 2
Bright; round; very suddenly much brighter toward the middle; 90" [diameter]; the south following [SE] of 2.

Sweep 3 (April 11, 1825)
...., NPD 77d 31' +/- (1830.0)
A most curious double neb 3' dist centre from centre, but the nebulae join with v F nebulosity. The fainter rather oval.
A most curious double nebula with 3' distance from center to center, but the nebulae join with very faint nebulosity. The fainter [NGC 4647] rather oval.

Smyth: CCCCLVII [457]. M60.
CCCCLVII. 60 M. Virginis.
AR 12h 35m 33s, Dec N 12d 26'.1
Mean Epoch of Observation: 1837.22 [March 1837]
[with a drawing of M59 and M60]
A double nebula , in the centre of Virgo's left wing, lying np [north preceding, NW] and sf [south following, SE], about 2' or 3' from centre to centre, the preceding one [NGC 4647] being extremely faint. The following, or brighter one, is that seen and imperfectly described by Messier in 1779, and is nearly between two telescopic stars vertically posited. A fine field is exhibited under the eye-piece, which magnifies 93 times, just as this object enters, because the bright little nebula 59 M. is quitting the np [north preceding, NW] verge, and another small one is seen in the upper part, H. 1402 [NGC 4638]: in fact, four nebulae at once.

The hypothesis of Sir John Herschel, upon double nebulae, is new and attracting. They may be stellar systems each revolving round the other: each a universe, according to ancient notions. But as these revolutionary principles of those vast and distant firmamental clusters connot for ages yet be established, the mind lingers in admiration, rather than comprehension of such mysterious collocations. Meantime our clear duty is, so industriously to collect facts, that much of what is now unintelligible, may become plain to our successors, and a portion of the grand mechanism now beyond our conception, revealed. "How much," exclaims Sir John Herschel, "how much is escaping us! How unworthy is it in them who call themselves philosophers, to let these great phenomena of nature, these slow but majestic manifestations of power and the glory of God, glide unnoticed, and drop out of memory beyond the reach of recovery, because we will not take the pains to note them in their unobstrusive and furtive passage, because we see them in their every-day dress, and mark no sudden change, and conclude that all is dead, because we will not look for signs of life; and that all is uninteresting, because we are not impressed and dazzled." ..... "To say, indeed, that every individual star in the Milky Way, to the amount of eight or ten millions, is to have its place determined, and its motion watched, would be extravagant; but at least let samples be taken, at least let monographs of parts be made with powerful telescopes and refined instruments, that we may know what is going on in that abyss of stars, where at present imagination wanders without a guide!" Such is the enthusiastic call of one, whose father cleared the road by which we are introduced to the grandest phenomena of the stellar universe.
This mysterious and shadowy doublet will be found 5deg west of Vindemiatriy, in the direction of Regulus, where there is a very large and wonderful nebulous region.

John Herschel, General Catalogue: GC 3182.
GC 3182 = h 1408 = M60.
RA 12h 36m 34.8s, NPD 77d 40' 38.4" (1860.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
vB; pL; R; f of Dneb. 8 observations by W. & J. Herschel.
Very bright; pretty large; round; the following [eastward] member of a double nebula [the other, preceding one is GC 3180 = h1405 = H III.44, = NGC 4647].
Remark: Figure in P.T. 33 [JH 1833], plate vii., fig. 74.

Dreyer: NGC 4649.
NGC 4649 = GC 3182 = h 1408; M 60.
RA 12h 36m 37s, NPD 77d 40.8' (1860.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
vB, pL, R, f of Dneb; = M60
Very bright, pretty large, round, the following [eastward] member of a double nebula [the other, preceding one is NGC 4647].
Remark: Figure in P.T. 33 [JH 1833], plate XV, fig. 74.

[Descriptions of 762 Nebulae ans Clusters photographed with the Crossley Reflector. Publ. Lick Obs., No. 13, Part I, p. 9-42]
NGC 4649, RA=12:38.6, Dec=+12: 6. 2' in diameter, growing rapidly brighter to a very bright central portion, which shows no true nucleus in short exposures; no spiral whorls discernible.
  • Observing Reports for M60 (IAAC Netastrocatalog)

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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    Last Modification: March 30, 2005