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Messier 64 - The Black Eye Galaxy Astrophotography on a Full Moon

Updated: May 18, 2023


Messier 64 is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices. It is also known as the Black Eye Galaxy because of the dark spiral arms all around the core. Does the photo below remind you of a black eye? Ouch! 🤕


I drove to a Bortle 4 zone and spent 4 hours capturing M64 with a One-Shot-Color camera and a refractor telescope. The full moon was up in the sky, but I decided to photograph this target anyway!


How did it turn out? find out below!


Object Designation: M64

Also known as: The Black Eye Galaxy

Constellation: Coma Berenices

Object Type: Spiral Galaxy

Distance: 24 million light-years away

Magnitude: 8.5

Discovered in: 1779



M64 galaxy by NASA
M64 by the Hubble Space Telescope

The image on the left was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. As you can see, the core of M64 is fairly bright, but the spiral arms are so dark and seem to be trying to cover the galaxy's center.


The Black Eye Galaxy's spiral arms are populated with so much dark dust that blocks any light from going through, including some of the light coming from the core.

There are some star-forming activity regions (bright red spots full of hydrogen Alpha), but these are difficult to spot within these dark bands.


M64 is getting further and further away at a speed of 254 miles per second (408 km/s).


Messier 64 is not easy nor too difficult to capture for beginner astrophotographers, but it definitely is a little tricky. M64 is a broadband target, so what matters most here is to photograph it far from the city, and preferably on a moonless night. I got a little impatient and did not care about the full moon being up. I believe the image would have turned out better if I stayed home that night and waited another week before heading out to the desert 🏜


Messier 64 is also known as the "Evil Eye Galaxy" as well as the "Sleeping Beauty Galaxy".



M64 with an OSC camera and a refractor telescope

Messier 64 Astrophotography using the Stellarvue SVX130 and the QHY600C

GEAR USED:

Camera: QHY600C

Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130

Mount: Astro-Physics Mach1

Accessories: Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 4 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 5 minutes

Filters: N/A

Gain: 26


 

How to Find Messier 64

How to find M64 in the constellation Coma Berenices, map

The Black Eye Galaxy can be found 24 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices. Not too far from M64 lie several other Messier galaxies, such as M85 and M100. Another Messier object, the globular cluster M53 is also very close to it.


It isn't possible to see M64 without a telescope. You might be able to spot it using binoculars if you have a really good pair of eyes and true dark skies, but all you'd see is a tiny, blurry dot of light.

Viewing Messier 64 with a large instrument is another story, as you start to really spot the dark dust in the arms covering the bright core.


 

Processing the Black Eye Galaxy


Messier 64 is tricky to process. This is because the core of the galaxy is very bright, but the arms are extremely dark! The key here is to try to bring out some detail within the spiral arms, without blowing up the center part of the galaxy.


In our image, the spiral arms turned out much more blue than expected (probably due to the full moon polluting our frames so much?) and so in a way it turned out to be not too difficult to process!


The image below is what a single shot of 5 minutes looks like. The galaxy looks very bright and not much detail can be resolved. The artifacts on the right side are due to a bright star being just out of the frame. We do not have an IR cut filter on this telescope. An IR Cut filter would have probably fixed that issue.


The Black Eye Galaxy - Single shot of 5 minutes M64
The Black Eye Galaxy - Single shot of 5 minutes

Interested in learning how I process all our images? Purchase our PixInsight Processing Guide.



 

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Final Thoughts


The Black Eye Galaxy is a tough target, mostly due to how bright the core is and how dark the spiral arms are. Although it is not easy to image, many beginner astrophotographers attempt to capture M64 as it is one of the most interesting Messier galaxies during the Spring season!


We chose not to make this image available as a print because it does not meet our quality standards, but check out the prints we have for other images HERE!


Have you captured the Black Eye Galaxy? Attach your image in the comments and let us know your acquisition details!


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Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter





 

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