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Description: M33

Right Ascension 01 : 33.9 (h:m)
Declination +30 : 39 (deg:m)
Distance 3000 (kly)
Visual Brightness 5.7 (mag)
Apparent Dimension 73x45 (arc min)

Probably discovered by Hodierna before 1654. Independently discovered by Charles Messier 1764.

The Triangulum galaxy M33 is another prominent member of the Local Group of galaxies. This galaxy is small compared to its big apparent neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy M31, and to our Milky Way galaxy, but by this more of average size for spiral galaxies in the universe. One of the small Local Group member galaxies, LGS 3, is possibly a satellite of M33, which itself may be a remote but gravitationally bound companion of the Andromeda galaxy M31.

M33 was probably first found by Hodierna before 1654 (perhaps together with open cluster NGC 752). It was independently rediscovered by Charles Messier, and cataloged by him on August 25, 1764. Nevertheless, William Herschel, who otherwise carefully avoided to number Messier's objects in his survey, assigned it the number H V.17, on the ground of an observation dated September 11, 1784. Also because of the cataloging of Herschel, the brightest and largest HII region (diffuse emission nebula containing ionized hydrogene) has obtained a NGC number of its own: NGC 604 (William Herschel's H III.150); it is situated in the northeastern part of the galaxy; apparently the bright knot near the top of our image. This is one of the largest H II regions known at all: it has a diameter of nearly 1500 light-years, and a spectrum similar to the Orion nebula M42. Hui Yang (University of Illinois) and Jeff J. Hester (Arizona State University) have taken a photograph of NGC 604 with the Hubble Space Tepescope, resolving over 200 young hot massive stars (of 15 to 60 solar masses) which have recently formed here.

M33 was among the first "spiral Nebulae" identified as such by William Parsons, the Third Earl of Rosse; see his drawing. It was also among the first "nebulae" identified as galaxies, in which Cepheid variable stars were found; Edwin Hubble published a fundamental study in 1926 (Hubble 1926).

Several other knots in the spiral arms of M33 have been assigned their own NGC catalog numbers: NGCs 588, 592, 595, and NGC 603 (the latter is listed as nonexistent in the RNGC though, although they mention it was listed by Zwicky), as well as ICs 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 139-40, 142, and 143 (NGC 2000.0 lists IC 134 and 139-40 as stellar, while the Webb Society Deep-Sky Observer's Handbook, Vol. 4 [Galaxies] shows IC 139-40 on the chart on p. 215, which is credited to Ronald J. Buta of McDonald Observatory, University of Texas). Some of them are identified in our map also. Kenneth Glyn Jones notes that they should be visible in 12.5-inch telescopes. The giant emission nebula NGC 595 was investigated by William H. Waller with the HST (e.g. Astronomy, June 1995, p. 16-18); with Hubble he resolved the hot massive stars that excite that nebula's gas to shine.

The Triangulum galaxy M33 is of type Sc, and even a "late" representative of that type so that Tully classifies it as Scd (in the Nearby Galaxies Catalog). The pronounced arms exhibit numerous reddish HII regions (including NGC 604), as well as blueish clouds of young stars. Baade has also discovered Population II stars, and globular clusters have been found. Although no supernovae have yet been detected in the Triangulum galaxy, several supernova remnants have, and were cartographed by radio astronomers with high acuracy. At least 112 variables have been discovered in M33, including 4 novae and about 25 Cepheids. A strong X-ray source is also situated in this galaxy. (Source SEDS)
Date: 02.11.2006 13:37
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