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Hubble Sees a Galactic Sunflower

The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, seen here in an image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, recall the pattern at the center 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 Galaxys glow in the small, northern constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs).

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NGC 5055
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Messier 63 (also M63, NGC 5055, Sunflower Galaxy, UGC 8334 and PGC 46153) is a magnitude +9.3  spiral galaxy located 37 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici.

The galaxy was discovered by German astronomer Pierre Méchain using a 3.5" refractor on the 14th June 1779.
The galaxy was observed by Charles Messier in 1779 and listed as M63.

On May 24, 1971, a type I supernova, SN 1971I, at magnitude +11.8, appeared in one of the arms of M63.

Right Ascension 13h 15m 49.3s, Declination +42° 01' 59"

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Title: Photometry of the Stellar Tidal Stream in the Halo of Messier 63
Authors: Taylor S. Chonis, David Martinez-Delgado, R. Jay Gabany, Steven R. Majewski, Gary J. Hill, Ignacio Trujillo

We present surface photometry of a giant, low surface brightness stellar arc in the halo of the nearby spiral galaxy M63 (NGC 5055) that is consistent with being a part of a stellar stream resulting from the disruption of a dwarf satellite galaxy. Using the stream's "great-circle" morphology and its photometric properties, we estimate that the stream originates from the accretion of a 10^8 solar mass satellite in the last few Gyr. The B-R colour of the stream's stars is consistent with Local Group dwarfs and is also similar to the outer regions of M63's disk and stellar halo within our measurement uncertainties. Additionally, we identify several other low surface brightness features that may be related to the galaxy's complex spiral structure or may be tidal debris associated with the disruption of the galaxy's outer stellar disk as a result of the accretion event. Using our deep, panoramic optical view of M63 with additional existing multiwavelength data, we describe the possible effects of such an accretion event in the larger picture of the parent galaxy.

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Messier63b.jpg
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Date: 23:20 UT, 12th June, 2011.



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Spitzer Captures Infrared Rays From a Sunflower

The various spiral arm segments of the Sunflower galaxy, also known as Messier 63, show up vividly in this image taken in infrared light by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Infrared light is sensitive to the dust lanes in spiral galaxies, which appear dark in visible-light images. Spitzer's view reveals complex structures that trace the galaxy's spiral arm pattern.
Messier 63 lies 37 million-light years away -- not far from the well-known Whirlpool galaxy and the associated Messier 51 group of galaxies.

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Sunflower Galaxy Glows with Infrared Light

The various spiral arm segments of the Sunflower galaxy, also known as Messier 63, show up vividly in this image taken in infrared light by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Infrared light is sensitive to the dust lanes in spiral galaxies, which appear dark in visible-light images. Spitzer's view reveals complex structures that trace the galaxy's spiral arm pattern.
Messier 63 is 37 million light years away -- not far from the well-known Whirlpool galaxy and the associated Messier 51 group of galaxies.

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