M74 Phantom Galaxy

M74 galaxy is located in constellation of Pisces. Distance to this grand design spiral galaxy has been determined to 32 million light years. The number of stars in M74 is estimated to 100 billion.

M74 was discovered by Pierre M├ęchain in 1780, who communicated later his discovery to Charles Messier. Phantom Galaxy apparent magnitude is 10mag, but its surface brightness is pretty low, which makes M74 one of the most difficult Messier objects for amateurs to observe. The only Messier object with lower surface brightness is M101 Pinwheel galaxy. William Herschel observed M74 many times, and here is his description made in December 28, 1799:

Very bright in the middle, but the brightness 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 resolvable kind, but my mirror has been injured by condensed vapours.


Low surface brightness makes M74 tricky object for astroimaging under suburban sky – especially if one wants to capture any detail in the galaxy arms. The transparency was quite decent when I exposed frames for the image below, but the seeing was mediocre, so the amount of detail captured is not great.

M74 Phantom Galaxy

Large version: https://astrojolo.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2018-10-11-M74-1.jpg

Clear skies!

Image technical data:

Date: 10,11.10.2018
Location: Nieborowice, Poland
Telescope: Meade ACF 10"
Corrector: AP CCDT67
Camera: QHY163M, gain 100
Mount: SW EQ6
Guiding: SW 80/400 + ASI290MM
Exposure: L 100x2 minutes, RGB 3x25x1 minute
Conditions: suburban sky, seeing average, transparency good

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