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M 85
26 of 111

M 85

February 19, 2005
Lenticular (S0) Galaxy M85 (NGC 4382), type S0, in Coma Berenices

Right Ascension: 12 : 25.4 (h:m)
Declination: +18 : 11 (deg:m)
Distance: 60000 (kly)
Visual Brightness: 9.1 (mag)
Apparent Dimension: 7.1x5.2 (arc min)

Discovered 1781 by Pierre Méchain.

M85 is the northernmost member of the Virgo Cluster in Messier's catalog, and thus situated in constellation Coma Berenices. It was discovered on March 4, 1781 by Pierre Méchain. His report of this discovery caused Charles Messier to investigate this nebulous object and this whole celestial region, and on March 18, 1781, he cataloged it as M85, together with seven own discoveries of that night in the same area in the sky, all of them also member galaxies of the Virgo Cluster, and globular cluster M92.

M85 is a luminous lenticular (S0) galaxy; in many respects it seems to be a twin of M84. It seems to consist of an old yellow stellar population only. In our photo, the elliptical area covered by M85 has an apparent major axis of 4 to 5 arc minutes, but on longer exposures its angular dimension is about 7.1x5.2 arc minutes. This implies that the luminous disk of this galaxy has a linear diameter of about 125,000 light years.

The present author is uncertain if the very faint condensations which appear in our image around the outline of this galaxy are faint globular clusters or just condensations in the galaxy's disk.

M85 is left in our image; on the right hand side the small barred spiral NGC 4394 is visible, which is of mag 11.2 and looks like a hazy star. The separation of the centers of these galaxies is about 8 minutes of arc. As both galaxies are receding at about 700 km/sec, they may form a physical pair.

The type I supernova 1960R appeared in M85 on Dec 20, 1960 and reached mag 11.7. Supernova hunters should take care not to be fooled by the foreground star SSE of this galaxy's nucleus !


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