Galaxy Messier 85

Messier 85
Messier 85: Messier 85 (middle) mit NGC 4394 (left), IC 3292 (right) and MCG 3-32-28 (below M 85). Sloan Digitized Sky Survey [147]

Object Description

The galaxy M 85 was discovered by Pierre Méchain on March 4, 1781 and visited by Charles Messier on March 18. Messier wrote about M 85: «Nebula without a star, below and next to the ear of the Virgin, between the two stars 11 and 14 of the hair of Berenice, according to the catalog of Flamsteed: This nebula is very faint. M. Méchain had determined his position on March 4, 1781.» Here Messier apparently made a mistake and meant the star 24 Comae Berenices instead of 14 or it was a misprint in the «La Connoissance» of 1784. In the same night he came across numerous other «nebulae without a star» in the Virgo cluster: M 84, M 86, M 87, M 88, M 89, M 90 and M 91 [281]

Physical Properties

Messier 85
Messier 85: Image taken with the Hubble Space Telescope [215]

In the case of M 85, there is still no full agreement as to whether it is an elliptical or a lenticular galaxy. Lenticular galaxies have properties of both elliptical and spiral galaxies and are sometimes called «armless spiral galaxies». M 85 interacts with two neighboring galaxies: spiral galaxy NGC 4394 and elliptical galaxy MCG 3-32-28 (not MCG 3-32-38 as in the ESA/Hubble Press Release). The galaxies are members of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster and are about 60 million light years away from Earth.

About four to seven billion years ago, M 85 appears to have merged with another galaxy. M 85 contains about 400 billion stars, most of which are very old. In the central region, however, there are predominantly young stars, less than three billion years old. These could have come from a recent outbreak of star formation. There is a supermassive black hole in the core of M 85. In 2006 a supernova occurred northeast of the core. [215]

«Catalogue of Principal Galaxies (PGC)», Paturel et al. 1989 [144]
NameRA [hms]Dec [dms]mTypeDim [']Btot [mag]HRV [km/s]PA [°]
IC 329212 24 48.2+18 11 47L.5 x .415.5
NGC 4382, M 8512 25 24.6+18 11 26L M7.4 x 5.910.0722
NGC 439412 25 56.0+18 12 54SBRM3.4 x 3.211.7920

Finder Chart

The galaxy M 85 is located in the constellation Coma Berenices (Hair of Berenices) between the stars 24 Comae Berenices and 11 Comae Berenices, about 1 ° 10 'east of 11 Comae Berenices.

Chart M 85
Chart created using SkySafari 6 Pro and STScI Digitized Sky Survey. [149, 160]


144Catalogue of Principal Galaxies (PGC); Paturel G., Fouque P., Bottinelli L., Gouguenheim L.; Astron. Astrophys. Suppl. Ser. 80, 299 (1989); (2021-02-18)
147Aladin Lite; (2020-12-23)
149SkySafari 6 Pro, Simulation Curriculum;
160The STScI Digitized Sky Survey;
215Explore - The Night Sky | Hubble’s Messier Catalog; (2020-12-31)
281«Catalogue Nébuleuses et des Amas D'Étoiles» Observées à Paris, par M. Messier, à l'Observatoire de la Marine, hôtel de Clugni, rue des Mathurins. «Connoissance des temps ou connoissance des mouvements célestes, pour l'année bissextile 1784 » Page 227; (2021-02-21)