Welcome back to Messier Monday! Today, we continue in our tribute to our dear friend, Tammy Plotner, by looking at the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy – also known as Messier 83!
During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noticed the presence of several “nebulous objects” while surveying the night sky. Originally mistaking these objects for comets, he began to catalog them so that others would not make the same mistake. Today, the resulting list (known as the Messier Catalog) includes over 100 objects and is one of the most influential catalogs of Deep Space Objects.
One of these objects is the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (aka. Messier 83), a barred spiral galaxy located 15.21 million light years from Earth in the southern constellation Hydra. With a spatial diameter of about 55,000 light years, or roughly half the size of the Milky Way, M83 is one of the nearest and brightest barred spirals in the sky.