The Sunflower Galaxy | Daniel Nimmervoll

The Sunflower Galaxy | Daniel Nimmervoll
The Sunflower Galaxy | Daniel Nimmervoll

The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, also known as NGC 5055, recall the pattern at the centre of a sunflower. So the nickname for this cosmic object — the Sunflower Galaxy — is no coincidence.

Discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1779, the galaxy later made it as the 63rd entry into fellow French astronomer Charles Messier’s famous catalogue, published in 1781. The two astronomers spotted the Sunflower Galaxy’s glow in the small, northern constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs). We now know this galaxy is about 27 million light-years away and belongs to the M51 Group — a group of galaxies, named after its brightest member, Messier 51, another spiral-shaped galaxy dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy.

Galactic arms, sunflowers and whirlpools are only a few examples of nature’s apparent preference for spirals. For galaxies like Messier 63 the winding arms shine bright because of the presence of recently formed, blue–white giant stars.

Object: M 63 / NGC 5055
Photo taken in: April 2021
Distance: 30 million light years
Diameter: 100,000 light years
Exposure: 342 x 300 sec. for RGB
66 x 900 sec. with dual narrow band
Total: 45 hours

Calibration: Darks / Flats / DarkFlats
Mount: Skywatcher EQ6-R PRO
Telescope: Lacerta Fotonewton 250/1000
Corrector: Lacerta GPU coma corrector
Filter: Astronomik L2 UV-IR Block 2 ″
Optolong filter L-eXtreme 2 ″
Camera: QHY268c @ Gain 0 at -15 ° C
Guiding: ZWO OAG with QHY5III462c and PHD2
Software: APP / Photoshop CC