M63 - Sunflower Galaxy

Messier 63 or M63 (also designated NGC 5055) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.6 and its angular diameter is 10x6 arc-minutes. M63 lies at an estimated distance of 37 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 13h 15.8m, Dec= +42° 02´ which makes M63 best seen during the spring. The Messier Spring Star Chart shows the position of all Messier objects visible during that season. As one of the more famous objects in the Messier Catalog, it is commonly known as the Sunflower Galaxy.

The image above shows the uncropped view of M63 through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is up). A 3x enlargement of this image centered on the Sunflower Galaxy appears to the right.

This spiral galaxy was discovered by P. Méchain in 1779. The 3rd Earl of Rosse included it in his list of 14 "spiral nebulae" in 1850. M63 is physically associated with M51 as a member of the M51 group. According to Stoyan et al. (2010), the distance of M63 is 26.7 million light years and its diameter is 98,000 light years. Its estimated mass is 140 billion solar masses.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M63 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M63

June 14, 1779
`Nebula discovered by M. Méchain in Canes Venatici. M. Messier searched for it; it is faint, it has nearly the same light as the nebula reported under no. 59 [M59]: it contains no star, and the slightest illumination of the micrometer wires makes it disappear: it is close to a star of 8th magnitude, which precedes the nebula on the hour wire. M. Messier has reported its position on the Chart of the track of the Comet of 1779.'

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