The Triangulum Galaxy M33

© 2015 Eric Marlatt

This was shot about 10 miles east of Flag near the Winona ext off I-40, even with Flagstaff being a dark sky city it's well worth taking short trips out for very dark skies for imaging. This image was captured through an Orion EON 130mm telescope, an AP Mach1 mount, and a modified Canon T3i camera, and surrounded by howling coyotes that make sure I'm awake. It has an exposure time around 7 hours. Image processing was done in Pixinsight to bring out all the detail buried deep in the image.

Eric Marlatt          

The following was retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, at on March 6, 2016

Triangulum Galaxy

"The Triangulum Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 3 million light-years (ly) from Earth in the constellation Triangulum. It is catalogued as Messier 33 or NGC 598, and is sometimes informally referred to as the Pinwheel Galaxy, a nickname it shares with Messier 101. The Triangulum Galaxy is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy and about 44 other smaller galaxies. It is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed with the naked eye.

The galaxy is the smallest spiral galaxy in the Local Group and it is believed to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy due to their interactions, velocities and proximity to one another in the night sky. It also has an H-II nucleus."


The galaxy gets its name from the constellation Triangulum, which is where it can be spotted.

The Triangulum Galaxy is sometimes informally referred to as the "Pinwheel Galaxy" by some amateur astronomy references and in some public outreach websites. However, the SIMBAD Astronomical Database, a professional astronomy database that contains formal designations for astronomical objects, indicates that the name Pinwheel Galaxy is used to refer to Messier 101, and several other amateur astronomy resources and other public outreach websites also identify Messier 101 by that name.


Under exceptionally good viewing conditions with no light pollution, the Triangulum Galaxy can be seen with the naked eye. It is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed without the aid of a telescope. Being a diffuse object, its visibility is strongly affected by small amounts of light pollution. It ranges from easily visible by direct vision in dark skies to a difficult averted vision object in rural or suburban skies. For this reason, Triangulum is one of the critical sky marks of the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale.

Observation history

The Triangulum Galaxy was probably discovered by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna before 1654. In his work De systemate orbis cometici; deque admirandis coeli caracteribus ("About the systematics of the cometary orbit, and about the admirable objects of the sky"), he listed it as a cloud-like nebulosity or obscuration and gave the cryptic description, "near the Triangle hinc inde". This is in reference to the constellation of Triangulum as a pair of triangles. The magnitude of the object matches M33, so it is most likely a reference to the Triangulum galaxy.

The galaxy was independently discovered by Charles Messier on the night of August 25–26, 1764. It was published in his Catalog of Nebulae and Star Clusters (1771) as object number 33; hence the name M33. When William Herschel compiled his extensive catalogue of nebulae, he was careful not to include most of the objects identified by Messier. However, M33 was an exception and he catalogued this object on September 11, 1784 as H V-17.

Herschel also catalogued the Triangulum Galaxy's brightest and largest H II region (diffuse emission nebula containing ionized hydrogen) as H III.150 separately from the galaxy itself, which eventually obtained NGC number 604. As seen from Earth, NGC 604 is located northeast of the galaxy's central core. It is one of the largest H II regions known, with a diameter of nearly 1500 light-years and a spectrum similar to that of the Orion Nebula. Herschel also noted 3 other smaller H II regions (NGC 588, 592 and 595).

It was among the first "spiral nebulae" identified as such by Lord Rosse in 1850. In 1922–23, John Charles Duncan and Max Wolf discovered variable stars in the nebulae. Edwin Hubble showed in 1926 that 35 of these stars were classical Cepheids, thereby allowing him to estimate their distances. The results were consistent with the concept of spiral nebulae being independent galactic systems of gas and dust, rather than just nebulae in the Milky Way.

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