|M64 (NGC 5024)||Spiral Galaxy||12h 56m 44s||+21° 40′ 55″||Coma Berenices||8.4||10.5×5.3 arcmins|
This galaxy is 17 million light-years from Earth and was discovered by Edward Pigott in March 1779. Messier himself discovered in independently a year later.
Looking at the image below, it’s clear to see why it’s been named the Black Eye (or Evil Eye) galaxy; it’s all thanks to that dark band of dust wrapped around the core and absorbing the light from it.
Visible in smaller telescopes, M64 is a favorite object to hunt for as it comes back to prominence in spring evening skies. The galaxy spans about 48,000 light-years of space. Oddly, the outer regions of this galaxy rotate in the opposite direction to the core, nuclear areas. At the boundary between these conflicting zones is an area rich in new star formation.
Although not certain, the consensus view is that a collision with, and absorption of, another galaxy are the cause of the conflicted rotations of this distant world.
This first sky chart, from SkySafari 6, shows the sky looking east at 11 pm in the middle of April. The Black Eye of M64 is midway between due east on the horizon and the zenith (overhead point). To help get your bearings, look for the Big Dipper asterism, shown inside the orange ellipse.
Stars on this chart are shown to magnitude 5.0 and the moon and planets are not shown.
Use the bright stars Denebola in Leo and Arcturus in Boötes to locate the magnitude 4.3 star called Diadem in Coma Berenices. This star is close to M64, so we can locate it using that star.
The biggest challenge to finding M64 is its remoteness – there are not many bright features very close by. The best way to find it is by locating 35 Comae Berenices, a magnitude 4.9 star, visible to the naked eye, less than a degree away from M64.
A magnifying finderscope or binoculars should also reveal the galaxy’s presence near the star. Stars are shown to magnitude 7 in the chart below.
Now you have this galaxy in your eyepiece, what should you expect to see?
The following views will help you find M64 in different telescope types by presenting the images as your telescope will show them. The first image is with a black sky and white stars, the second picture is the same image but presented in inverse monochrome. Black stars on a white background is often easier to use at the telescope. Stars are shown to magnitude 12.0 and the circle is a 1° field of view – note the star 35 Com. Ber. is shown in each image. Each image can be clicked on for a full-screen version.
Upright View – This is what your eyes see unaided and through a reflex or red-dot finderscope
Upside-down view – This is what reflectors and magnifying finders show, and refractors / Cassegrains without a star diagonal
Mirrored View – Refractors and Cassegrain models with a star diagonal show this view
Even in a relatively small telescope, you’ll see the brighter nucleus and the swirl of fainter ‘dust’ around it. What we’re not going to see is the dark graze that gives rise to this galaxy’s unofficial designation.
The nucleus is clearly the brighter part of this galaxy, but the dust lane only becomes clear to us if we’re lucky enough to enjoy and eight-inch, or larger, telescope.
Whatever you spy is not going to be a disappointment. This is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable galaxies to look at with an average backyard telescope.
Each of the star maps above is reproduced as a pdf below. Each star map has a number in [square brackets] beneath it which corresponds to the file number below. If you want image [M64-1], for example, click the ‘download’ button next to it below and you’ll be able to open it as a printable pdf.