Updated: May 31
Featured in The Astrophotographer's Guidebook.
The Sombrero Galaxy (M104) is a small lenticular galaxy. It lies about 30 million light years away from Earth. It lies in the constellation Virgo, and has a unique feature - it is seen edge-on! Find out more about M104 below, and find photos and information to help you with your astrophotography.
Sombrero Galaxy Astrophotography
The Sombrero Galaxy holds the biggest supermassive black hole ever recorded in any nearby galaxy. The black hole impacts its brightness, making it the brightest galaxy in a 10-megaparsec radius of the Milky Way!
Additionally, since it's viewed edge-on from Earth, we see an incredibly bright core with rich, dark dust lanes surrounding it. M104's unique look is what makes it one of the most interesting galaxy entries in the Messier Catalog.
We spent a little more than 3 hours on this deep-sky object. Overall, we did 3-minute exposures instead of the usual 6 minutes, because of how small and bright it is.
You can see how we captured this target in Episode 6 of Galactic Hunter!
Camera: Canon 7D Mk II
Telescope: 8" Astrograph f/3.9
Mount: Equatorial Motorized Mount
Guiding: Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope
Total Exposure Time: 3 hours and 9 minutes
Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes
63 lights - 15 Darks - 15 Bias
How to Locate the Sombrero Galaxy
To locate it, look for the constellation of Virgo and find its brightest star, Spica. M104 can be spotted just 11.5 degrees west of the bright star.
The Sombrero galaxy can be seen from extremely dark sites with binoculars or telescopes. However, you won't make out the details shown in the image above. With a telescope of 10 inches or more, you may be able to distinguish the dark dust lanes in front of the galaxy’s bright center.
M104 is 30% the size of the Milky Way Galaxy
Has a supermassive black hole with a mass of more than 1 billion suns
The brightest galaxy in a 10-megaparsec radius
Learn about all 110 Messier objects in our Messier Marathon post.
Single Shot and Processing of M104
Below you can see one of our single shots of M104. It was stacked with 61 other photos to make the main image above!
You might notice there are 3 bright stars on the right. Although interesting, they appear a little lackluster... Read more about them below.
To the right is a close-up of Messier 104. The biggest challenge you'll face with this galaxy lies in photo processing.
There's a fine balance between blowing out the core of the galaxy making it look overexposed, and making it look dull because it is not bright enough.
Take caution and don't just focus on the galaxy. Consider the other objects in your frame, such as the beautiful stars to its the right.
They might have looked insignificant in our single shot, but these stars are actually an asterism called "The Jaws" and they are beautifully colorful.
Check out the other types of galaxies by visiting our galaxy resource page.
Galactic Hunter Episode #6 - The Sombrero Galaxy
The Sombrero Galaxy was the focus of the 6th episode of Galactic Hunter!
Discover how we captured Dalia's favorite target below.
The Sombrero Galaxy is a small target that may seem difficult for beginner astrophotographers, but due to its brightness and easy processing - it is a great target for any amateur astrophotographer!
When taking shots, do your best to go to the darkest skies possible. Ensure that you know your way around your camera, and once it is dark enough play around with your exposure times. This is important for your data collection as you don't want to take photos that overexpose the core of the galaxy.
When processing, remember that there is a fine balance between a bright object and its surroundings. If using a similar setup to ours, you can also capture The Jaws within the frame. Try to bring out the core enough to see the dark dust lanes enveloping the core and bring out the colors of the asterism.
If you take a photo using our tips, come back with your finished image and share it with us in the comments. We would enjoy seeing your work!
GALACTIC HUNTER BOOKS
Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep-sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!
Description: The Astrophotographer’s Journal is a portable notebook created for the purpose of recording observations, cataloging photographs, and writing down the wonderful memories created by this hobby. This book contains more than 200 pages to memorialize your stargazing and imaging sessions, as well as a useful chart on the last pages to index exciting or important notes. Read back on the logs to see how much progress you have made through the months, the problems you overcame, and the notes taken to improve in the future. Just as the pioneers of astronomy did in their time, look up and take notes of your observations as you are the author of this star-filled journey.
Description: The Constellations Handbook is a logical guide to learning the 88 constellations. Learning the constellations is difficult. Remembering them is even harder. Have you ever wanted to look up to the night sky, name any pattern of stars and be able to tell their stories? This book groups the constellations in a logical order so that the reader can easily learn them by their origin, and see how their stories interact with one another as a group. The last pages of this book include an index of all 88 constellations, each with a slot where you can write your own personal tips and tricks in order to memorize them with ease. The Constellations Handbook is not just another guide listing all the constellations from A to Z and their location, it is the perfect companion for stargazing and a learning journey through the ages.