M94 - The Cat's Eye Galaxy from the city without filters

Updated: Apr 7



Messier 94 is a barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici. it is also known as the Cat's Eye Galaxy due to its bright barred core. Meow! 🐈


In this post, we capture M94 from our bright Bortle 9 backyard without the use of any filter, and also without stacking dark and flat calibration frames. We have never tried imaging a galaxy from a white zone without filters before, so see this as a personal challenge!


How did it turn out? find out below! Make sure to also watch our video showing the entire process.


Object Designation: M94

Also known as: The Cat's Eye Galaxy

Constellation: Canes Venatici

Object Type: Spiral Galaxy

Distance: 16 million light-years away

Magnitude: 8.99

Discovered in: 1781



M94 by the Hubble Space Telescope

The Cat's Eye Nebula is part of the M94 group of galaxies in Canes Venatici, which contains about 20 galaxies. It is the brightest member of the group thanks to its luminous core.

Another Messier object in the group is M64, the Black Eye Galaxy. As you can see on the picture from NASA on the left, M94 is seen "face-on" and has a beautiful yellow core. The color slowly transforms into blue as we travel to the outer parts of the spiral arms.






M94 with amateur equipment

The image on the right is a crop from our full photo (which is visible below). As you can see, our colors match the true colors from Hubble's version. A bright yellow center and blue outer arms.


What's interesting here is that the farthest spiral arms become blue again. Those are not visible in NASA's image due to the field of view. You can also see a very faint bright ring that surrounds the galaxy. It is very difficult to see, but it is there!




Messier 94 is also know as the "Croc's Eye Galaxy" (or "Crocodile's Eye Galaxy"). In a way, the core resembles both the eye of a cat 🐈 and a crocodile 🐊, but the name of Cat's Eye Galaxy is the one that is mostly used by astronomers.



M94 from the backyard in Las Vegas


GEAR USED:

Camera: QHY600C

Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130

Mount: Astro-Physics Mach1

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Accessories: Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 7.6 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 5 minutes

Filters: N/A

Gain: 26



How to find M94?

M94 is located 16 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is part of the M94 group of galaxies, which includes M63, so it is really close to that target as well!


To find it, look for the bright star Cor Caroli, which is one of the only two bright stars in Canes Venatici. From there, M94 can be found just a little bit to the North.


It is not possible to spot M94 with the naked eye or even binoculars due to its size. Under a dark site, you should be able to find it using a telescope, although it will just look like a bright fuzzy star. If you located several of these in your field of view, you probably stumbled upon the M94 group. The Cat's Eye Galaxy should be the brightest member in your view!




Processing the Cat's Eye Galaxy

The Cat's Eye Galaxy was both fun and very difficult to process. It would have been a very easy one if we captured it from a Bortle 4 zone or darker, but from home, that's a whole other story. When processing it, I had to deal with heavy vignetting, noise, and artifacts all over the image. We did not take any calibration frames so that didn't help, but luckily the final result turned out great. I of course had to crop the image by quite a lot to be able to just focus on the object itself. Luckily though, this camera is incredible and the noise level was very manageable.


Below you can see a single 3-minute shot of this target so that you can know what to expect, at least if you're also imaging from the city. The galaxy is pretty much just a bright dot in the center that looks just like a star. It does show some faint stuff around it which are where the spiral arms are.

The gradient circles all over the image are a mix of both low resolution (we resized the image to upload it on this page, so that your browser doesn't have to load forever, you're welcome), and also a little bit of vignetting due to the extreme light pollution. More on that in the video.


The Cat's Eye Galaxy - Single shot of 5 minutes

If you are interested in learning how I process all our images, you can download a full PDF "follow along" file that contains 77 pages, a full 1 hour and 45 minutes walkthrough tutorial video, our custom pre-sets and even raw data HERE.




Our video about capturing M94 from the city

Below you can watch the video we made about imaging this object from our light polluted backyard. Be awesome and leave a comment with your thoughts!



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Final Thoughts

The Cat's Eye Galaxy is truly a wonderful object. It has a very bright core, which seems to help if imaging it from a light polluted zone, and the colors in the spiral arms are really simple to reveal. The halo around the galaxy is surprisingly not too difficult to capture from the city, but we know it could be so much better from a dark site!


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 Cat's Eye Galaxy? Attach your image in the comments and let us know your acquisition details!


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