Messier 65

Messier 65

Messier 65, also known as NGC 3623, is an intermediate spiral galaxy about 35 million light-years away in the constellation Leo. It was discovered by Charles Messier in 1780. Along with M66 and NGC 3628, M65 forms the Leo Triplet, a small group of galaxies.

Visible From Pacific Northwest
Best Time To Observe
Minimum Size Of Viewing Device
Object TypeSpiral Galaxy
DesignationsMessier 65, M65, NGC 3623, PGC 34612, UGC 6328, 2MASX J11185595+1305319, MCG+02-29-018, TC 160, Z 1116.3+1322, APG 317B
Right Ascension11h 18m 55.9s
Number Of Stars200 billion
Apparent magnitude +10.25
Apparent dimensions 8′.709 x 2′.454
Object Radius45,000 light years
Distance From Earth35 million light years


Messier 65 was discovered by Charles Messier, but William Herschel wrongly attributed the discovery to Messier’s friend  Pierre Méchain in his work A Cycle of Celestial Objects and Kenneth Glyn Jones picked up the error in the 1960s. A number of sources now wrongly credit Méchain for the discovery even though Messier never acknowledged his colleague’s sighting.

Messier discovered M65 and M66 on March 1, 1780. He described M65 as a “nebula discovered in Leo: It is very faint and contains no star.”

William Herschel described M65 as “a very brilliant nebula extended in the meridian, about 12′ long. It has a bright nucleus, the light of which suddenly diminishes on its border, and two opposite very faint branches.”

John Herschel catalogued M65 as h 854 and later added it to the General Catalogue as GC 2373, describing the object as “bright; very large; much extended in position angle about 165 degrees +/-; gradually brighter toward the middle where there is a bright nucleus.”

Admiral William Henry Smyth noted that M66 was “preceded at about 73s by another of a similar shape, which is Messier’s No. 65, and both are in the field at the same time, under a moderate power, together with several stars. They were pointed out by Méchain to Messier in 1780, and they appeared faint and hazy to him.”

Locating M65 In The Sky

Messier 65 can be found along the line from Denebola to Regulus. The galaxy lies right between the stars Iota Leonis and Chertan, Theta Leonis. It can be found only 3 degrees from Chertan. The best time of year to observe M65 is during the spring.

Messier 63 Sunflower Galaxy

Viewing M65

The galaxy lies in the eastern part of Leo. Thanks to its high surface brightness, it is visible even in small binoculars and appears as an oval shaped patch, along with its bright neighbour M66. Small telescopes begin to reveal the structure of the pair, with a bright central core surrounded by a thin disk of light. To see the third member of the Leo Triplet, however, one needs at least a 6-inch telescope. Larger telescopes reveal the dark dust lanes and other details of M65.

Photographing M65

It is possible to obtain the Leo Triplet into 1 image, which is M65, M66, and NGC 3628. When photographing the Leo Triplet, make sure that the camera being utilized is accurately aimed so that all three are comfortably in the shot. The Leo Triplet is a bit more sophisticated than a single galaxy as there are 3 galaxies in this image, but they can be imaged together using almost any sized telescope. All 3 galaxies are similar in brightness, color, and size, which makes editing easier than one would expect from multiple objects in the same image.

Sources And Further Reading

Descriptions of all of Messier Objects can be found here.

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