M64 – Blackeye Galaxy

Discovered by Edward Pigott on March 23, 1779 only a short time before Johann Elert Bode stumbled across it on April 4, 1779. Independently discovered by Charles Messier on March 1, 1780 which was then added to his catalog as object M64. To them this galaxy just looked light a light fuzzy blob in their eyepieces, and the central darkening – forming the dark eye – wasn’t discovered until William Herschel observed the galaxy in 1785 and 1789.
The distance of M64, in Coma Berenices, isn’t well known and a press release from Space Telescope Science Institute gives it a distance of 19 million light years, which seems to be the agreed upon distance. Many others have varying numbers from 14 million light years to 25 million light years. Using a star such as a Cepheid Variable astronomers can use the period and the luminosity to calculate a distance to the star, and the galaxy they are in.
M64 joins a small grouping of galaxies known as the Canes Venatici I or the M94 group.

Box marks the location of M64

Box marks the location of M64

In good seeing conditions this galaxy can be spotted with a pair of binoculars and small to medium telescopes. Will display an irregular shape with an uneven texture, but the core will be quite bright through the eyepiece making that the main part visible to your eye. In telescopes 4-6” you will begin to make out the dust region forming the dark eye.

M64 – The Black Eye Galaxy. 05-04-13

This image is 22 images at 2 minutes a piece and ISO 800 with 24 dark frames to reduce noise. Images stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

All my Messier Object information from: The Messier Catalog. Screen shot of object location taken in Stellarium. Image stacking in Deep Sky Stacker.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Modded Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Intervalometer
Polar Scope for alignment

M63 – Sunflower Galaxy

Discovered first by Pierre Mechain on June 14, 1779, and then included into Charles Messier’s catalog the same day. This was the first Deep Space Object that Messier’s friend, Pierre, had discovered. M63 was one of the first early recognized spiral galaxies. This galaxy is joined in a group of several small galaxies about 6° north of it in the M51 group.

The box marks the location of M63

The box marks the location of M63

Although this galaxy has a visual brightness of 8.6 magnitude I found it a little tricky to pinpoint. I used stars from Ursa Major and Canes Venatici to estimate where to aim the scope and then I had to do a bit of sweeping around with the scope to find it. Visually from where I am it wasn’t much more than a round fuzzy which was mainly the core and a little bit of the spiral disk. This picture brings out a lot more detail than I would have thought this galaxy had.

M63 – The Sunflower Galaxy. 05-05-13

32 images at 2 minutes a piece, ISO 800, and 24 dark frames. Stacked in deep sky stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Modded Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Intervalometer
Polar Scope for alignment

NGC4565 – Needle Galaxy

NGC4565, also known as the Needle Galaxy, was discovered by William Herschel in 1785. The Needle Galaxy can be found in the constellation Coma Berenices. This is a prime example of an edge on spiral galaxy, and is visible even through a small telescope. This is a bright galaxy that if it were closer to the Milky Way galaxy it would quite possibly outshine Andromeda. There are two galaxies nearby to NGC4565 and one of which is believed to be gravitationally interacting with it. If our own galaxy was viewed from this perspective at a distance of 50 million light-years it would look very much the same.

The box marks the location of NGC 4565

The box marks the location of NGC 4565

This galaxy was quite easy to spot even from my own backyard. I didn’t magnify the galaxy at all to see it larger in my eyepiece as it may have blocked out too much of the incoming photons to get anymore detail out of it. Quite a view though as this looks like it’s name, a Needle.

NGC4565 – The Needle Galaxy. 05-03-13

This is 29 images at 2 minutes a piece, ISO 800, with 23 dark frames to remove noise. Stacked in deep sky stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Modded Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Intervalometer
Polar Scope for alignment

M65, M66, NGC 3628 – The Leo Triplet

M65 is a spiral galaxy and seems to have had little gravitational influence from it’s neighboring galaxies. Discovered on March 1, 1780 by Charles Messier. Tightly wound spiral arms along with a prominent dust lane on face on edge. Dominated by a smooth looking old stellar region and within the lane may contain some star forming regions. In 2013 the first supernova within the galaxy was discovered, known as 2013am first spotted on March 21, 2013.
M66 is another spiral galaxy and is considerably larger than M65. Also discovered by Charles Messier on March 1, 1780. This galaxy has a defined central bulge, and deformed spiral arms which may be the result of interactions with the gravity of it’s neighbors. Unlike M65, M66 shows a bit of nebulous regions signifying star forming regions near the end of one of the spiral arms.
NGC 3628 is an edge on unbarred spiral galaxy completely missed by Charles Messier and later discovered on April 8, 1784 by William Herschel. It may have been too dim to be seen in Messier’s telescopes, although his later instruments may have been able to see it if he went back during very good conditions. There is a dark band of dust along the equatorial region of NGC 3628 which hides not only some of the bright young stars in the spiral arm, but also obscures some of the bright central core. Also slightly deformed which is believed to be from it’s two neighboring galaxies, M65 and M66.

'X' Marks the spot of the Leo Triplet

‘X’ Marks the spot of the Leo Triplet

While viewing this group of galaxies I can’t help but notice the pareidolia of a face, with M65 and M66 as the eyes, and the edge on NGC 3628 as the mouth. With my gear I didn’t struggle to spot all three galaxies as Charles Messier did. The spiral arms of M65 and M66 were not much more than a bit fuzzy looking while the inner cores were bright. NGC 3628 was also quite visible and although it’s equatorial dust lane blocks a majority of the bright core it seems to have been the most prominent feature I could see through the eyepiece.

M65, M66, NGC 3628. 03-30-13

This image is 30 frames at 1.5 minutes a piece, ISO 800, and 30 dark frames. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, and post processing done in Photoshop.

I get all my Deep Sky object information from The Messier Catalog.

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Modded Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Intervalometer
Polar Scope for alignment

M44 – Beehive Cluster

M44, also known as Praesepe or the Beehive Cluster can be found in the constellation, Cancer. This object can be seen with the unaided eye from a mildly light polluted, or dark sky location. Galileo saw this “nebulous” object and reported that it was not a single star, but more than 40 small stars. Charles Messier added this object to his catalog on March 4, 1769. This cluster lies 577 light-years away and is estimated to be 730 million years old which is relatively young, astronomically speaking.

'X' marks the spot of M44

‘X’ marks the spot of M44

Many of the brighter stars are very easily visible at only 30x magnification. There were a few distinct sections of the cluster where there were small groupings of 3 stars which you can see in the image below.

M44 03-16-143

This image is 35 images at 1 minute 15 seconds a piece, ISO 800 with 21 dark images to reduce noise. Within this image there are 6 Galaxies; NGC2624, NGC2625, IC2388, NGC2637, IC2390, and NGC2643 from top to bottom. Below I have provided an image with the SAO stars, and the galaxies labeled.

M44 label

Equipment:
Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Intervalometer
Polar Scope for alignment