Pictures of the Sunflower Galaxy

Facts about and images of M63, also known as the Sunflower Galaxy.

M63 Sunflower galaxy and another faint galaxies, unguided. by Juan Pablo Trapero Revert, Vall d'Ebo, Alicante, Spain. Equipment: C9.25 S/GT, SBIG ST-402ME, unguided CG-5, 0.63x focal reducer, Bahtinov mask for focusing.

Messier 63 is also known as the Sunflower Galaxy due to the wispy spiral arms and bright centre that give it a floral appearance.

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It may be a spiral galaxy, but a closer look at pictures of the Sunflower Galaxy reveals that its spiral arms are not distinct, defined structures like those of the Whirlpool Galaxy, for example.

A Hubble Space Telescope image of the Sunflower Galaxy. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
A Hubble Space Telescope image of the Sunflower Galaxy. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Instead, it appears to have an indeterminate number of spiral arms bound closely together, and is what’s known as a flocculent spiral galaxy.

In fact, the Sunflower Galaxy only really has two spiral arms, but they are wound tightly round and round the galactic core, giving the impression of numerous arms.

These arms are peppered with hot young stars glowing bright blue, indicating that this is very much an active galaxy and a region of rapid star formation.

M63, The Sunflower Galaxy Kfir Simon, via Tivoli Astro Farm, Namibia, 8–13 June 2019. Equipment: Apogee Alta U16M CCD camera, 16-inch Dream Astrograph, Astelco NTM-500 mount
M63, The Sunflower Galaxy Kfir Simon, via Tivoli Astro Farm, Namibia, 8–13 June 2019. Equipment: Apogee Alta U16M CCD camera, 16-inch Dream Astrograph, Astelco NTM-500 mount

Messier 63 is located 27 million lightyears away in the constellation Canes Venatici.

It belongs to the M51 Group of galaxies, named after its brightest member, the aforementioned Whirlpool Galaxy.

Below is a selection of images of the Sunflower Galaxy captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers.

For help photographing galaxies, read our deep-sky astrophotography guide or learn how to fine-tune your images with our tutorial on deep-sky image processing.

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And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

M63 Sunflower Galaxy by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK. Equipment: Celestron c11 sct, skywatcher NEQ6 pro mount, Atik 383L+ camera, motorised filter wheel and Astronomik LRGB filter set.
M63 Sunflower Galaxy by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK. Equipment: Celestron c11 sct, skywatcher NEQ6 pro mount, Atik 383L+ camera, motorised filter wheel and Astronomik LRGB filter set.
M63 Sunflower galaxy and another faint galaxies, unguided. by Juan Pablo Trapero Revert, Vall d'Ebo, Alicante, Spain. Equipment: C9.25 S/GT, SBIG ST-402ME, unguided CG-5, 0.63x focal reducer, Bahtinov mask for focusing.
M63 Sunflower galaxy and another faint galaxies, unguided. by Juan Pablo Trapero Revert, Vall d’Ebo, Alicante, Spain. Equipment: C9.25 S/GT, SBIG ST-402ME, unguided CG-5, 0.63x focal reducer, Bahtinov mask for focusing.
M63 by Dan Crowson, Missouri, USA. Equipment: SBIG ST-8300M, Astro-Tech AT90DT at f/6.7 603mm.
M63 by Dan Crowson, Missouri, USA. Equipment: SBIG ST-8300M, Astro-Tech AT90DT at f/6.7 603mm.
M63 by Dan Crowson, Animas, New Mexico, USA. Equipment: SBIG STF-8300M, Astro-Tech AT12RCT at f/8 2432mm.
M63 by Dan Crowson, Animas, New Mexico, USA. Equipment: SBIG STF-8300M, Astro-Tech AT12RCT at f/8 2432mm.
M63, Sunflower Galaxy by José J. Chambó, Navas de Estena, Ciudad Real, Spain. Equipment: GSO 8
M63, Sunflower Galaxy by José J. Chambó, Navas de Estena, Ciudad Real, Spain. Equipment: GSO 8″ f/3.8 & Canon EOS-100D
Messier 63 - The Sunflower Galaxy by Ian Dunbar, UK. Equipment: Orion Optics VX10, Skywatcher AZ-EQ6-GT, Atik 314L+, Baader RGB filters.
Messier 63 – The Sunflower Galaxy by Ian Dunbar, UK. Equipment: Orion Optics VX10, Skywatcher AZ-EQ6-GT, Atik 314L+, Baader RGB filters.
The Sunflower Galaxy by David Slack, Prudhoe, Northumberland, UK. Equipment: 8
The Sunflower Galaxy by David Slack, Prudhoe, Northumberland, UK. Equipment: 8″ Celestron F5 Newtonian, SXV-H9 CCD, Canon 1100D DSLR, Sky Watcher HEQ5 pro mount.
Sunflower Galaxy by Mark, Cheltenham, UK. Equipment: Astrotech 8
Sunflower Galaxy by Mark, Cheltenham, UK. Equipment: Astrotech 8″ RC, ZWO ASI 1600 Pro Mono