Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.2008 April 17
Credit & Copyright: Tony Hallas
Explanation: A bright spiral galaxy of the northern sky, Messier 63 is about 25 million light-years distant in the loyal constellation Canes Venatici. Also cataloged as NGC 5055, the majestic island universe is nearly 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own Milky Way. Known by the popular moniker, The Sunflower Galaxy, M63 sports a bright yellowish core and sweeping blue spiral arms, streaked with cosmic dust lanes and dotted with pink star forming regions. But this deep exposure also shows remarkable faint loops and extensions of the galaxy's spiral arms. A dominant member of a known galaxy group, M63's faint extended features could be the result of gravitational interactions with nearby galaxies. M63 also shines across the electromagnetic spectrum and is thought to have undergone bursts of intense star formation.