M58 is a magnitude +9.8 barred spiral galaxy that's one of the brightest members of the famous Virgo cluster. At a distance of 68 million light-years and despite being one of the furthest objects in the Messier catalogue it's bright enough to be visible in large binoculars and small telescopes. Although unknown when discovered, M58 was the most distant known object of all at that time. It's best seen during the months of March, April and May.

The centre of the Virgo cluster is positioned approx. halfway along a line connecting Denebola (β Leo - mag. +2.1) to Vindemiatrix (ε Vir - mag. +2.8). M58 is located on the southern side of this line, just over halfway along. Positioned one degree east of M58 is M59 and M60 with M89 located one degree to the northwest of M58.

The galaxy was one of Charles Messier original discoveries. He found it on April 15, 1779; the same night he located elliptical galaxies M59 and M60, which were discovered a few days earlier by Johann Gottfried Koehler. Along with M91, M95 and M109, it's one of four barred spiral galaxies in the Messier catalogue.

M58 Barred Spiral Galaxy (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Finder Chart for M58 (also shown M49, M53, M59, M60, M64->M66, M84->M91 and M98->M100)

Finder Chart for M58 (also shown M49, M53, M59, M60, M64->M66, M84->M91 and M98->M100) - pdf format

M58 is a fine galaxy for backyard observers. It's visible in larger binoculars (e.g. 20x80s) as a small faint near circular haze of light. A 100mm (4-inch) scope will easily show the bright nucleus of M58. With a 200mm (8-inch) telescope under dark skies and good seeing conditions it's possible to see hints of the central bar structure. Larger scopes show more subtle details but not a great deal more. The galaxy covers 6.0 x 4.8 arc minutes of apparent sky. Despite not being terrifically detailed, M58 is large and bright enough to be impressive through most backyard scopes. Some 30 arc minutes southwest of M58 is a curious pair of interacting galaxies NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, popularly called the Siamese Twins.

M58 has an active galactic nucleus, which contains a supermassive black hole and some starburst activity. Two supernovae have been observed in M58; a type II supernova at mag. +13.5 in 1998 and a mag. +12.2 type I supernova a year later.

The galaxy is one of the earliest recognized spiral galaxies and was listed by Lord Rosse as one of 14 "spiral nebulae" discovered to 1850.

M58 Data Table

Messier58
NGC4579
Object TypeBarred spiral galaxy
ClassificationSAB(rs)6
ConstellationVirgo
Distance (kly)68,000
Apparent Mag.9.8
RA (J2000)12h 37m 44s
DEC (J2000)11d 49m 05s
Apparent Size (arc mins)6.0 x 4.8
Radius (light-years)58,000
Number of Stars400 Billion
Notable FeatureM58 is one of the brightest galaxies in the Virgo cluster

Sky Highlights - March 2017

Comet
Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak now visible with binoculars as it heads towards perihelion

Mercury
Mercury heading towards greatest elongation east

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for March 2017

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Venus (mag. -4.8 to -4.1 - first half of month), Mars (mag. +1.3 to +1.5), Uranus (mag. +5.9), Mercury (mag. -1.5 to -0.4 - second half of month)
Midnight
Southeast:- Jupiter (mag. -2.3 to -2.5)
Morning
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Venus (first half of month), Mars, Uranus
Midnight
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn
Morning
West:- Jupiter
Northeast:- Saturn
East:- Neptune (mag. +8.0 - second half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Melotte 111 - Mel 111 - The Coma Star Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)

Telescopes:-
Messier 67 - M67 - Open Cluster
Messier 51 - M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 97 - M97 - The Owl Nebula (Planetary Nebula)
Messier 101 - M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 65 – M65 – Spiral Galaxy
Messier 66 - M66 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
Messier 95 - M95 - Barred Spiral Galaxy
Messier 96 - M96 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4244 - Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4565 - Needle Galaxy - Spiral Galaxy

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