Last night, the spiral galaxy M65 was at its best for the year and tonight it’s the turn of its neighbor, M66. Like M65, it was discovered by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1780 and was added to his famous catalog of deep sky objects. It’s not just a neighbor in our night sky – at a distance of 36 million light years, it’s just a million light years further away. In comparison, our nearest major galactic neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, is a little over two million light years away.
Like M65, it’s a member of the Leo Triplet of galaxies (with NGC 3268) and can be found in the constellation Leo, midway between the bright star Chort to the north and fainter iota Leonis to the south. At magnitude 9, it’s brighter than M65 but you’ll still need at least a pair of binoculars to see it.
(Click on an image to enlarge.)
The spiral galaxy M66 culminates at midnight tonight. (Magnitude 8.9. Leo, all night. See images above.)
Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are easily visible with the naked eye.
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Learn more about every upcoming astronomical event in 2015 An Astronomical Year (Kindle eBook) and The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019) (Kindle eBook) and The Astronomical Almanac (2015-2019) (Paperback Edition).
The Amateur Astronomer’s Notebook allows astronomers to log 150 observing sessions and includes an appendix of hundreds of suggested deep sky objects.