TheSunflower Galaxy (M63) in Canes Venatici

Posted by Rod Pommier
on Monday, July 25, 2011

Location: Pommier Observatory, Portland, OR, USA. Dates: 2011-05-04 through 2011-06-22. Telescope/mount: Celestron Compustar C14 with 0.75x focal reducer (f8). Camera: SBIG STL 11000M with Baader Planetarium filters. Self-guided. Exposures: LRGB=152:48:48:52=5:00hours total exposure.


M63 is a class Sb spiral galaxy. It lies 35 million light years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. It appears to be a member of the same galaxy group that includes M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, which lies 6 degrees north of M63, and a few smaller galaxies. Unlike grand design Sb galaxies with 2 spiral arms, M63 is of the rarer "flocculent" design with arms that cannot be traced. This design is characterized by a sharp drop off in brightness between core and arms, making it difficult for imagers to portray both regions simultaneously. The sigmoid whisp below the bright star at upper right is irregular galaxy UGCA 342 which may be a satellite analagous to one of our Magellanic clouds. Numerous faint background galaxies are visible, including an edge-on spiral which is reddened by M63's intervening dust.

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