Sunflower Galaxy, Messier 63 (Copy)


The Sunflower Galaxy, Messier 63 

The Sunflower Galaxy is a  bright spiral galaxy of the northern sky. Also known as Messier 63 it is about 27 million light-years distant in the  constellation Canes Venatici near the handle of the Big Dipper. M63 was first discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Mechain, then later verified by his colleague Charles Messier on June 14 1779 and became number 63 on his list of 110 deep space objects. The majestic island universe is nearly 100,000 light-years across which makes it about the size of the Milky Way. It is estimated to be 13.25 Billion years old which makes it one of the earliest galaxies to have formed after the Big Bang.  Known by the popular moniker, The Sunflower Galaxy, M63 sports a bright reddish yellow core and its sweeping outer blue spiral arms are streaked with cosmic dust lanes and dotted with many red star forming regions.  There is a general lack of large scale continuous spiral structure in visible light, so it is considered a flocculent galaxy, resembling tuffs of wool. The center region is tightly wound around the core but its extended shape on the right side suggests an offset mass of Dark Matter which cannot be seen but is pulling the galaxy in that direction.  There is also a conspicuous embedded small galaxy on the right side and smaller distant ones scattered around the image.  M63 also has faint, extended features that such as the one on the lower right and are likely star streams caused by tidal stretching from satellite galaxies. The image is about 11 arc minutes in the sky which is one third of the size of the full moon.  It is in a group of gravitationally bound galaxies along with the Whirlpool Galaxy M 51 and M 106.


Optics: Planewave 20″ CDK20
Mount: Software Bisque Paramount MEII
Camera: FLI PL 16803
Filters: L,R,G,B,Astrodon 3nm Ha
Dates/Times: April 2020
Location: Adler Earth & Sky Observatory, Jackson Hole WY
Exposure Details: L=40x20min, R,G,B=20x20min, 2:2, Ha 11×20 min, 2:2, 111 images over 37 hr
Acquisition: MaxIm DL SkyX, SBIG STi, Astrodon MOAG
Processing:  MaxIm DL, Pixinsight, Photoshop CC2020