Messier 63 - The Sunflower Galaxy in Canes Venatici

Updated: Jan 13

M63 is a beautiful spiral galaxy located about 37 million light-years away from Earth. Below you can see our image of this target taken with our usual 8" Newtonian telescope and our ZWO ASI 1600MM camera. We did not spend a lot of time on it but it turned out beautiful and does not have much noise at all!


The Sunflower Galaxy got its name from its yellow core and the shape of its arms resembling a sunflower. Photographing this target is not difficult, but could be a little tricky for beginners due to its small size and the difference of brightness between the core and the arms. We recommend to aim for about three to four hours of exposures on this galaxy, as the beautiful details in the arms, or petals, might not show if the total exposure time is too short.


Processing the Sunflower is very exciting, as the galaxy will look somewhat dull until you adjust the colors and saturation to transform it into a beauty!


Messier 63 (LRGBHa), the Sunflower Galaxy


GEAR USED:

Camera: ZWO ASI 1600mm Pro Mono

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Coma: Baader MPCC Coma Corrector MkIII

Guiding: Starshoot Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope

Acquisition: ASI Air

Power: Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 2 hours and 42 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Filters: L (1.3 hours) / R (30 min) / G (24 min) / B (30 min)

Gain: 75



LOCATING MESSIER 63

Just like M106, M63 can be found in the faint constellation of the Hunting Dogs: Canes Venatici. An easy way to find its location is to start from Ursa Major. Locate the last star of the Big Dipper’s handle, Alkaid, then begin moving towards the brightest star of the Canes Venatici constellation: Cor Caroli. You should spot your target about halfway between both stars.


The Sunflower galaxy is bright enough to be seen with binoculars and small telescopes, but you will only be able to spot a small gray smudge.


Besides M106, there are several other nearby objects that you could stumble upon while looking for the Sunflower, such as M94, M51 (The Whirlpool Galaxy), M3 or NGC 4631.

COOL FACTS
  • Pierre Méchain’s first discovery, in 1779

  • Is a member of the M51 Group

  • One of the first galaxies where a spiral structure was identified


SINGLE SHOT & PROCESSING OF MESSIER 63

We used four filters to capture Messier 63: L,R,G and B.

Below you can see the stacked images for each filter.


Messier 63, stacked images for L/R/G/B



Stacking these 4 filters into one image gives you what you can see below. Great details in the arms, a bright core, some gas on the outer edges and a few galaxies appear more obvious all over the image.


All four filters stacked - 2 hours and 42 minutes unprocessed


OUR CATALOG ENTRY VIDEO

Below is our short video about our capture on M63. This is one of these very quick update videos to keep our viewers up to date each time we image something that is not part of our Episodes and is added to our Messier catalog.



FINAL THOUGHTS

Messier 63 is not very large, but it sure is impressive! With the right processing technique, an astrophotographer can make its beautiful colors pop out in a magnificent way without over saturating the object. There are also some nice small galaxies throughout the image that become more and more visible as you process the photo.


We are happy with the result even though we only spent less than 3 hours on it. We can thank our Bortle 3.5 Nevada sky for this and the fact that we can now use a cooled camera!



Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!


Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter





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