Black Eye Galaxy (M64)

Black Eye Galaxy (M64)

Black Eye Galaxy (M64)

I am able to get close enough to the heavens to take photos of deep sky objects from my driveway on the Colorado Plateau because I am standing on the shoulders of giants. This subtle jewel of a galaxy first picked up it’s nick name in February 1787 when William Herschel wrote in his observing notes, “A very remarkable object, mE. [much elongated], about 12′ long, 4′ or 5′ broad, contains one lucid spot like a star with a small black arch under it, so that it gives one the idea of what is called a black eye, arising from fighting.” Herschel had to build his own telescope, grind his own mirrors, find his own objects in the heavens, and try, mostly on his own, to figure out what they are. I use my father’s hand me down scope that was first made and sold by enthusiastic tinkerer inventors in the 1970’s and is now mass made inexpensively in China. I use free software to search the sky for interesting objects and use today’s mind blowing digital camera technology to capture the image coming out the back of the telescope. I can find out in a flash from the internet what the object is.

Just a handful of years before Herschel made the above notes, Charles Messier catalogued the object as M64. With our powerful techniques today it has been shown that this galaxy is two counter rotating groups of stars, in effect a galaxy evolving to start reproducing a second generation of stars. The “black eye” near the nucleus is a gigantic cloud of galactic dust where new stars are forming. It goes to show that if you punch a galaxy in the eye it will turn itself around, dust itself up, and start all over again.

M64 map

M64 is located in the queen’s hair (constellation Coma Berenices)

  • My image is a total of two hours five minutes composed of 25 subframes of five minutes each at 800 ISO. 12 each of dark, flat and bias comp frames.
  • Celestron vintage “Orange Tube” C8 SCT, f/6.3 reducer
  • Losmandy G-11 mount
  • Guiding: Orion ST80, SSAG, PHD
  • Gary Honis full spectrum modification Canon T1i (Jan. 2015)
  • BackyardEOS, DSS, Photoshop CS5


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