M65 is a magnitude +9.6 edge-on spiral galaxy located 35 million light-years distant. It was discovered by Charles Messier on March 1, 1780, the night he also discovered M66. Messier described the galaxy as "a very faint nebula without stars." Apart from M81 and M82 in Ursa Major, M65 and M66 are probably the most sought after galaxy pair for amateur astronomers. With a third galaxy, NGC 3628, lying nearby the trio forms the heart of a small celebrated group, known as the Leo Triplet or M66 group. All can be observed or photographed in the same field of view and are a popular target for observers and astrophotographers alike.

M65 is located in the eastern section of the relatively large and bright zodiac constellation of Leo, the Lion. In western skylore, the Lion's heart is marked by the constellation's brightest and only first magnitude star, Regulus (α Leo - mag +1.4). Positioned approximately 16 degrees northeast of Regulus is Chertan (θ Leo - mag. +3.3). Along with the Zosma (δ Leo - mag. +2.6) and Denebola (β Leo - mag. +2.1), Chertan forms a prominent right-angled triangle. Located 2 degrees south of Chertan is 73 Leonis (mag. +5.3). M65 lies 0.75 degrees east of this star, with M66 a further 0.33 degrees to the southeast of M65. Positioned 0.5 degrees north of the Messier pair is the third member of the triplet, NGC 3628.

The galaxies are best seen during the months of March, April and May.

Messier 65 spiral galaxy by the Hubble Space Telescope (credit:- NASA/ESA/The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

Finder Chart for M65 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M65 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M87 (also shown M49, M53, M58->M60, M64->M66, M84->M86, M88->M91 and M98->M100) (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M87 (also shown M49, M53, M58->M60, M64->M66, M84->M86, M88->M91 and M98->M100) - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

With a magnitude of +9.6 and a high surface brightness, M65 is faintly visible in binoculars from a dark site. A small telescope, such as an 80mm (3.1-inch) refractor, nicely shows the galaxy as a thin slivery disk of light with a bright core. Through medium size scopes of the order of 200mm (8-inch) aperture, subtle details can be made out of the hazy structure. Even larger amateur reflectors reveal beautiful dark lanes spanning the complete structure of the galaxy. In total, M65 spans 8.7 x 2.4 arc minutes of apparent sky.

M65 is marginally the faintest of the Leo Triplet and is similar in appearance to M66. Although NGC 3628 is about the same magnitude as M66, it's the hardest of the three to spot due to its lower surface brightness. Once you have identified the group, it's worthwhile taking time to compare these superb galaxies through the eyepiece.

M65 Data Table

Messier65
NGC3623
Object TypeSpiral galaxy
ClassificationSAB (rs) a
ConstellationLeo
Distance (light-years)35 Million
Apparent Mag.+9.6
RA (J2000)11h 18m 56s
DEC (J2000)+13d 05m 37s
Apparent Size (arc mins)8.7 x 2.4
Radius (light-years)45,000
Number of Stars200 Billion
Notable FeatureMember of the Leo Triplet along with M66 and NGC 3628

Sky Highlights - May 2017

Mercury
Mercury reaches greatest elongation west on May 17, 2017

Meteor Shower
Eta Aquariids meteor shower peaks on May 5th and 6th, 2017

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for May 2017

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Mars (mag. +1.6)
South:- Jupiter (mag. -2.4)
Midnight
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.2)
Morning
South:- Saturn
East:- Venus (mag. -4.7)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Mars
North:- Jupiter
Midnight
Northwest:- Jupiter
North:- Saturn
Morning
Northwest:- Saturn
East:- Venus, Mercury (mag. +2.5 to -0.3), Neptune (mag. +7.9)

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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