Messier 67 - Open Cluster in Cancer

Discovered by Johann Gottfried Koehler in 1779 and catalogued by Charles Messier in 1780, M67 is a very useful object for scientific study. Although it is younger than our own star, it is one of the oldest known of its kind. Open clusters are collections of stars which formed from the same cosmic “stuff”, which means that they share the same age, composition, and distance, which is about 2700 light-years. Astronomers frequent 67 when going about studying how stars evolve.

Top: Wide-Field - Palomar/Caltech

Bottom: Close-up - NOAO/AURA/NSF

…there is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Sky Is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist

Messier 66 - Spiral Galaxy in Leo

Discovered in 1780 by the French comet-hunter Charles Messier, M66 sports several beautiful arms of blue star-bursts and black dust lanes. IT is part of the Leo Triplet of galaxies, which includes M65, featured yesterday. It has several peculiar features, including a very dense core.

Top: Wide-Field - ESO

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

Messier 65 - Spiral Galaxy in Leo

Discovered by Charles Messier in 1780, M65 is a brilliant galaxy which features a ring on concentrated dust with a central core which is extremely bright. As active as this galaxy may appear, it actually have very little star formation, due to a lack of gas. The disturbances in its shape may be due to interaction with the other two galaxies nearby, which together constitute the Leo Triplet. M65 featured a supernova in early 2013, which was heavily observed by amateurs and professionals alike.

Top: Wide-Field - AURA/NSF/NOAO

Bottom: Close-Up - ESA/NASA

M64 - The Black Eye Galaxy in Coma Berenices

Rich in dust and gas, this spectacular galaxy is one of the most beautiful of the spirals. M64 was discovered by Edward Pigott in 1779 and catalogued by Charles Messier in 1780. There are actually two disks rotating within the galaxy, leading to theories of galactic merger or cannibalism. It has been exceedingly difficult to determine the distance to this galaxy due to a lack of key observations of certain types of stars which help astronomers gauge great distances. Even in small telescopes, the structure of this galaxy is very clear.

Top: Wide-Field - Jeffjnet

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

Messier 62- Sunflower Galaxy in Canes Venatici

M62 was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1779 and then catalogued by Charles Messier soon after. Later, Lord Rosse observed the spiral structure of the galaxy, one of the first observations of spiral structure. M62 belongs to the M51 Group, which includes the Whirlpool Galaxy. There has been one supernova observed in the galaxy, showing how seemingly motionless galaxies are indeed in a constant state of flux.

Top: Wide-Field - NASA

Bottom: Close-Up - Jschulman555

Messier 62 - Globular Cluster in Ophichus

Discovered in 1771 by the French comet-hunter Charles Messier, M62 is an irregularly shaped globular cluster and is very near to the galactic centre, which may explain the odd shape. There are many variable stars in M62, which allows a better determination of its distance to about 22,500 light-years from Earth.

Top: Wide-Field - Hewholooks

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA/ESA

Messier 61 - Barred Spiral Galaxy in Virgo

M61 is a brilliant spiral galaxy whose disk is face-on from our view. As such, we can see the diverse array of elements which make up the galaxy. The darker areas are called dust lanes, and the blue areas are regions where there is ongoing star formation. It was discovered by Barnabus Oriani in 1779 and later catalogued by Charles Messier. The centre may be the site of a supermassive black hole. There have been six supernovae observed in the galaxy as well, helping to determine a distance of about 52 million light-years from Earth.

Top: Wide-Field - Hewholooks

Bottom: Close-Up - ESA/NASA

Messier 60 - Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo

Discovered in 1779 by Johann Gottfried Koehler and later catalogued by Charles Messier. Like most elliptical galaxies, M60 lacks active star formation and is essentially composed of very old stars, giving it a characteristic red hue. M60 also features one of the largest black holes ever found, weighing in at about 4.5 trillion times the mass of the sun!

Top: Wide-Field - NASA

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

Messier 59 - Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo

Discovered by Johann Gottfried Koehler in 1779 during a comet observation and catalogued by Charles Messier about three days later, M59 is a fairly ordinary elliptical galaxy. These kind of galaxies are very unlike those we are used to seeing with the bright blue arms and fantastical shapes because they don’t have ongoing star formation. This means that the stars are all very old and there is very little gas present, with the result that an elliptical galaxy is very red and very uniform in appearance. It is thought that the core of M59 contains a super-massive black hole too!

Top: Wide-Field - Palomar Observatory

Bottom: Close-Up - NOAO/AURA/NSF

Messier 58 -  Barred Spiral Galaxy in Virgo

Discovered by Charles Messier in 1779,  M58 is a stunning example of a galaxy in full view and one of only four such objects in the Messier Catalogue. It has an easily visible barred structure in its centre, with dark streaks of gas and luminous blue regions along its arms. Unlike most galaxies, M58 has very concentrated areas of gas and star formation, which is believed to be due to intergalactic effects. There have been two supernovae observed in M58, helping to pin down the distance of the galaxy to about 62 million light-years.

Top: Infrared - NASA

Bottom: Visible - Adam Block/Mount Lemmon/UArizona

Messier 57 - The Ring Nebula

In it’s astounding beauty, the Ring Nebula is one of the most iconic objects in all of astronomy. Discovered by Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in 1779 and catalogued by Charles Messier soon after, M57 is a Planetary Nebula. To clarify, it has nothing to do with a planets, but rather look like planets with early telescopes. The fine structure of the ring is caused by the expelling of gas layers by a dying low-mass star, as it can no longer hold onto its atmosphere. The dot in the middle of the ring is a white dwarf star, which is the core of the dead star. In about five billion years our sun will become a planetary nebula too. You’re not going to want to be there!

Top: Wide-Field - NASA

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

Messier 56 - Globular Cluster in Lyra

M56 was discovered by Charles Messier in 1779. Most globular clusters are aged remnants from an earlier stage in the evolution of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. But M56 is special because it moves counter to the other material in the galaxy. This is called retrograde motion. Many astronomers believe that this peculiarity is due to this cluster being alien to our galaxy, being absorbed from a dwarf galaxy which at some time during the past merged with us.  M56 can only be resolved with a large amateur telescope, but there are many others that are easily found even with binoculars!

Top: Wide-Field - Hewholooks

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA/ESA

Messier 55 - Globular Cluster in Sagittarius

Discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1752 and subsequently catalogued by Charles Messier in 1778. M55 is a remnant of a previous stage of our galaxies’ evolution, and lacks most heavy elements other than Hydrogen and Helium. While it can be seen with a decent set of binoculars, it is requires a sizeable telescope to resolve individual stars. Faint fuzzies!

Top: Wide-Field - Jim Mazur

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA

Messier 54 - Globular Cluster in Sagittarius

M54, discovered by Charles Messier in 1778, is a large globular cluster which doesn’t actually belong to our own galaxy. Instead, it was found to belong to the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, a small neighbouring galaxy near our own Milky Way. It is particularly difficult to resolve individual stars in M54, even with the best amateur telescopes. But don’t fret, because M54 may have a sizeable black hole located in its core, and that’s pretty cool!

Top: Wide-Field - Jim Mazur

Bottom: Close-Up - NASA/ESA