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NGC 628 (1,197 of 18,816)


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Messier 74

NGC 628, LEDA 5974, MCG+03-05-011, UGC 1149, Messier 74, h 142, GC 372

RA: 01h 36m 41.84s
Dec: +15° 46′ 59.6″

Con: Pisces
Ch: MSA:194, U2:173, SA:10


(reference key)

Type: galaxy, Sc

Mag: B=10.5, V=?

Size: 10.47′ x 9.549′
PA: 25°


Interestingly, M74 was included in the Bonn Durchmusterung, a star catalogue compiled in 1860 using a 3-inch telescope. In this catalogue it bears the designation BD+15238.

Historical observations

Mechain & Messier

This large spiral galaxy was first observed by Mechain in 1780, and seen by Messier the following month. Mechain's description said it "contains no star; it is fairly large, very obscure and extremely difficult to observe."


d'Arrest called it "pale and tenuous, very much denser toward the centre; the central part is almost round, diameter 40" Resolved; uncertain whether it has a true nucleus."

William Herschel (c.1784)

In the Philosophical Transactions, 1818, William Herschel wrote: "1783, 1784, 7 feet telescope. With 100 and 120 it is a collection of very small stars; I see many of them. 1799, 1801, 10 feet telescope. Several of the stars are visible; it is a very faint objecct. 1784, 20 feet telescope. Some stars are visible in it; the edges are not resolvable. 1805, 1810, large 10 feet telescope. With 108 it consists of extremely small stars, of an irregular figure; a very faint object of nearly 12' in diameter. 1799, December 28, 40 feet telescope. Very bright in the middle, but the brightness is confined to a very small part, and is not round; about the bright middle is a very faint nebulosity to a considerable extent. The bright part seems to be of the resolvable kind, but my mirror has been injured by condensed vapours."

John Herschel

Sir John Herschel erroneously classified it as a globular cluster, describing it as faint, very large, round, very gradually pretty suddenly much brighter in the middle, partially resolved, some stars seen.

Birr Castle/Lord Rosse

It was Lord Rosse, in 1848, who probably first detected the spiral nature of this galaxy. Observing with the 72-inch f/8.8 speculum telescope, he noted "Dec. 13, 1848. Rough sketch made. Spiral? Dec 14, 1848. Confirmed last night's observations; feel confident it is a spiral. Oct 24, 1851. Centre formed of stars; easily seen to be such; several stars through the nebula."

Published comments

Burnham's Celestial Handbook

Burnham's remarks that M74 is one of the faintest and most elusive Messier objects, requiring a dark, clear sky and a suitable low-power eyepiece. He says that under the best conditions it may appear as a circular, quite featureless glow, about 6' in diameter with averted vision, and with a bright nearly stellar nucleus.

Stewart (1908) Ann.Harv.Coll.Obs., 60 (6)

Table IV: Identified as pL 2-branch spiral.

Hinks, A.R. (1911)

Hinks, A. R. (1911) On the galactic distribution of gaseous nebulae and of star clusters. MNRAS, 71(8), 693-701.

p 697: The only difficulty in discussing the distribution of globular clusters arises from the fact that some of the objects described in the NGC as globular clusters are really spiral nebulae. Prof Bohlin has called attention to this .. and gives as an instance: NGC 628 = M74, which is described by Rosse, and photographed by Roberts (vol ii,. p 67) and by Keeler (Crossley, plate 4) as a fine spiral, though in the NGC it is described as a globular cluster.

Two other instances are NGC 6221 and NGC 6412, both of which are really spirals."

Charlier, C.V.L. (1931)

Charlier, C V L (1931) "Stellar clusters and related celestial phaenomena", Lund Annals 2, 14, No. 19. Charlier examined prints from the Franklink-Adams atlas; "Table 6 gives a list of those objects in Bailey's catalogue for which the globular character is uncertain or not probable..."

NGC 628 Remarks: "P, pF, neb, E at 0"

Sulentic & Tifft (1973)

(Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a 10.5 mag galaxy. Their coded description reads SC,VWD,B&LG,DIFKNAMS.

Sandage, A. (1961) The Hubble Atlas of Galaxies

This galaxy appears on page 29 of "The Hubble Atlas of Galaxies" by Allan Sandage (1961, Washington, DC).

Clark, R.N. (1990)

See also "Visual Astronomy of the Deep Sky" by Roger N. Clark (1990, Sky Publishing Corporation) page 80.

Sonbas, E. et al. (2010)

A search for supernova remnants in the nearby spiral galaxy M74 (NGC 628). Astron. Astroph., 517, A91.

"The brightest member of the small M74 group in the Pisces constellation, M 74 (NGC 628), is an Sc type spiral galaxy with an approx. 6° inclination angle at an assumed distance of 7.3 Mpc. M74 has well formed spiral arms with bright blue star clusters and dark cosmic dust lanes. In the early 2000s, two supernovae (SN 2002ap and SN 2003gd) were identified in M74 and studied extensively."

"We conducted a survey of SNRs using optical imaging and spectroscopic measurements in the nearby spiral galaxy M74. In this survey, we used blinking between continuum-subtracted H-alpha and continuum-subtracted [S II] images to deduce SNR candidates for a given ration between the lines. The SNRs were confirmed by additional spectroscopic observations and, finally, by comparison of the optically detected SNRs with archived Chandra observations. Nine SNRs were identified in M74 by our method. … According to the SN rate calculation of Matonick & Fesen in such galaxies, about half of all SNe are of type Ib/c or type II, produced by massive stars. In turn, only have of these SNe are located in regions with enough ambient density to produce a detectable SNR. This means that only about a quarter of all SN events may leave easily detectable optical remnants. In this respect, four times more SN events should have exploded in M74, and we detected nine SNRs. With this reasoning, we would expect to see about 40 SNRs. If the optically observable lifetime of an SNR is assumed to be about 20,000 years, a crude SN occurrence rate for M74 can be estimated giving a value of about 1 per ~500 years. In the light of the observations of two recent SNe from M74, our result can be reconciled if we accept that more SNe occur at places that are difficult to reach optically, (ie. in gas-rich regions of the galaxy).

Modern observations

Hartung, E.J. (1968) Astron.Obj.South.Tel

Hartung sees "a rather faint, round haze 4' across with a broad brighter centre and suggestion of concentric zoning... a 4" shows only a dim, round haze."

Walter Scott Houston

writes: "M 74 can sometimes be seen more readily in binocualrs or a finder than in a 6-inch telescope. Its feeble contrast with the surrounding sky makes this a tricky object in any aperture, so not surprisingly the early observers differed on how it impressed them."

Tom Lorenzin

Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes: "9.2M; 10' diameter; large and faint with small, bright center; most difficult M-object!; face-on spiral; 70' ENE of 3.5M Eta PSC; much detail visible under clear, dark skies; good supernova prospect; see photos at HAG-29-31."

Steve Coe

Coe, using a 13.1" f/5.6, notes: ""NGC 628 (M 74) Bright, large, irregularly round, very bright in the middle at 100X. M 74 can be seen in my 11 X 80 finder from a dark site on a clear evening. However, I have declared this face on galaxy to be dim in an 8" f/4.5 from a site that was quite light polluted. Raising the power on this object to 220X using the 13" on a night I rated 8/10 for transparency brings out a wealth of detail. There is a stellar core and spiral structure with two arms winding out from the central hub are immediately evident. John Herschel declared this galaxy to be "rr" which means well-resolved into stars. Obviously, he was fooled by some of the 9 stars I could see involved within the spiral structure of this galaxy. Also, the arms are very mottled and that may have lead Herschel to think he had resolved this object."

Maloney, Patrick (IAAC)

Your skills: Advanced (many years); Date/time of observation: 02/Aug/1998 0920UT; Location of site: Palisades-Dows Observatory Nr Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Lat , Elev ); Site classification: Rural; Sky darkness: 6.0 Limiting magnitude; Seeing: 7 1-10 Seeing Scale (10 best); Moon presence: None - moon not in sky; Instrument: 10" Starsplitter Newtonian; Magnification: x76; Filter(s): ; Object(s): NGC 628 / M74; Category: External galaxy.; Class: SAc; Constellation: Psc; Data: mag 9.4 size ;

Description: Dim because of low SB (14.4), but readily visible under these good conditions. Very large and circular. There is an inner area of higher brightness which increases in brightness to a very bright centre. Otherwise featureless.

Gramer, Lew (IAAC)

Your skills: Intermediate; Date and UT of Observation: 1997-07-31/08-01, 07:00 UT; Location: Savoy, MA, USA (42N, elev 700m); Site classification: rural; Limiting magnitude: 7.2 (zenith); Seeing: 7 of 10 - pretty good, intermittent haze; Moon up: no; Instrument: 20" f/5 Tectron truss-tube dob Newtonian reflector; Magnification: 70x, 210x; Filters used: None; Object: M74; Category: Spiral galaxy [SA(s)c I]; Constellation: Psc; Data: mag 9.4 size 11'x10'; RA/DE: 15h37m +15o47m;

Description: A quick shot to eta Psc, which is the star pointed to by and SW of alpha and beta Ari, then swing from eta NE 1.5o and you will find this BRIGHT, beautiful spiral galaxy in a near-empty field! This morning, with what appeared to be zodiacal light brightening at the horizon, M74 showed no less than THREE well-defined spiral arms, with two especially stark right near its core. It showed a very bright core, but with no hint of a stellar nucleus. There were several intriguing bifurcations in the spiral arms, but as I lacked time to apply higher powers, and considering M74's low altitude, a description of these will have to wait until some future observation, hopefully this Fall!

Contemporary observations

Auke Slotegraaf

2016 October 30, Sunday

Location: Night Sky Caravan Farm, Bonnievale.

Date: 2016 Oct 30, Sunday.

Time: 23:30 SAST

Telescope: Little Martin (4-inch f/6.5 Celestron refractor)

Faint but obvious. Pretty large glow, irregular figure (or rather, uncertain shape). Three sets of wide stellar duos (10th-11th mag.), in parallel (NW-SE), in the same field.

1993 October 18

18 October 1993 01:15 SAST Observing with hand-held 11x80's from home. M33 readily seen as a roughly half degree fuzzy patch. M74, however, is totally unseen. This galaxy makes an equilateral triangle with Eta and another sar; I can just make out the 9.0-9.5th mag stars shown on U2000 chart 173 as surrounding Eta and extending to M74: the northern skies are quite bright and murky, possibly very thin clouds (and yet M33 easy?!) Mounted the 11x80's on its tripod, which didn't improve the view. I was surprised that M74 is not listed by Harrington.

Magda Streicher

(no date)

Alldays (22.50S, 20.12E, 770m).

12-inch f/10 SCT (95x, 218x)

This is one of the beauties of the sky. Large round haze outstanding against the background. The surface seems granular and against a very busy star field. With high power I do see the flimsy unwinding of the spiral arms which is clearly stand out towards a small bright nucleus. Towards the west a handful of faint stars drape down into the field of view. Faint double to the north. A few strings can be seen south in the field of view. Just lovely.

Richard Ford

2011 October, 29th Saturday


Instrument:12-inch Dobsonian Reflector Telescope.

Sky Conditions:The fainter parts of the Milky Way are barely visible with the naked eye.

Transparency Of The Sky:Haziness only visible on the horizon.

Seeing:Atmosphere stable with little interference.

Limiting Magnitude:4.9.



Object Type:Galaxy.

First Impression:This object looks like a galaxy.



Chart Number:No.8(Extract taken out of "Atlas of the Night Sky").

Size:26mm Eyepiece:Field Of View:57'/12= 4.7'.

20mm Eyepiece:Field Of View:50'/10.5= 4.7'.

4.7'+ 4.7'= 9.4'.

9.4'/2= 4.7'.

Size in Arc Minutes:4.7'.


Major Axis:4.7'.

4.7'/3= 1.5'.

Minor Axis:1.5'.

Galaxy is 4.7'* 1.5'.

Brightness:Magnitude 9.2.

Brightness Profile:Straight from the central nucleus of this galaxy it grows much brighter in the center.

Challenge Rating:Difficult.



This spiral galaxy's arms are diffuse and faint to observe.No spiral structure is observed in this galaxy.M74 has a round shape of faint soft light.In the faint arms of this galaxy there are areas of uneven brightness.

Tom Bryant

2006-10-13 23:00:00

Observing site: Pinnacles overlook

Telescope: C-8

[1h 36m 42s, 15 47m 0s] A face on Sc. Easily seen, as opposed to trying to located it in the glowing skies in my backyard.

2006-09-20 03:30:00

Observing site: Little Tycho Observatory

Telescope: C-8

[1h 36m 42s, 15 47m 0s] Found with a detailed finder chart. Only the nucleus was visible, the envelope was washed out by the bright sky.

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