Spiral galaxy M63 (NGC 5055), imaged at 450 and 814 nm
|Observation data (J2000 epoch)|
|Right ascension||13h 15m 49.27385s|
|Declination||+42° 01′ 45.7261″|
|Distance||29.3 Mly (8.99 Mpc)|
|Group or cluster||M51 Group|
|Apparent magnitude (V)||9.3|
|Apparent size (V)||12′.6 × 7′.2|
|M63, NGC 5055, PGC 46153, UGC 8334|
Messier 63 or M63, also known as NGC 5055 or the seldom-used Sunflower Galaxy, is a spiral galaxy in the northern constellation of Canes Venatici. M63 was first discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain then later verified by his colleague Charles Messier on June 14, 1779. The galaxy became listed as object 63 in the Messier Catalogue. In the mid-19th century, Anglo-Irish astronomer Lord Rosse identified spiral structures within the galaxy, making this one of the first galaxies in which such structure was identified.
This galaxy has a morphological classification of SAbc, indicating a spiral shape with no central bar feature and moderate to loosely wound arms. There is a general lack of large scale continuous spiral structure in visible light, a galaxy form known as flocculent. However, when observed in the near infrared a symmetric, two-arm structure becomes apparent. Each arm wraps 150° around the galaxy and extends out to 13,000 light-years (4,000 parsecs) from the nucleus.
M63 is an active galaxy with a LINER nucleus. This displays as an unresolved nuclear source wrapped in a diffuse emission. The latter is extended along a position angle of 110° and soft X-rays and H-alpha emission can be observed coming from along nearly the same direction. The existence of a super massive black hole (SMBH) at the nucleus is uncertain; if it does exist, then the mass is estimated as .
Radio observations at 21-cm show the gaseous disk of M63 extending outward to a radius of 130,000 light-years (40 kiloparsecs), well past the bright optical disk. This gas shows a symmetrical form that is warped in a pronounced manner, starting at a radius of 33,000 light-years (10 kiloparsecs). The form suggests the dark matter halo of the galaxy is offset with respect to the inner region. The reason for the warp is unclear, but the position angle points toward the smaller companion galaxy, UGC 8313.
The distance to M63, based upon the luminosity-distance measurement is 29,300,000 light-years (8.99 megaparsecs). The radial velocity relative to the Local Group yields an estimate of 15,200,000 light-years (4.65 megaparsecs). Estimates based on the Tully-Fisher relation range over 16,000,000-34,000,000 light-years (5.0-10.3 megaparsecs). The tip of the red-giant branch technique gives a distance of 28,930,000 ± 950,000 light-years (8.87 ± 0.29 megaparsecs). M63 is part of the M51 Group, a group of galaxies that also includes M51 (the 'Whirlpool Galaxy').
In 1971, a supernova with a magnitude of 11.8 appeared in one of the arms of M63. It was discovered May 24, 1971 and reached peak light around May 26. The spectrum of is consistent with a supernova of type I. However, the spectroscopic behavior appeared anomalous.
Messier 63 seen in infrared by the Spitzer Space Telescope.