M94 is a nice spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Canes Venatici. It's also known as the Cats Eye Galaxy or the Crocs Eye Galaxy due to its stunning eye-like resemblance. With an apparent magnitude of +8.5, it's a difficult binocular object requiring dark skies and good transparency; at best appearing as only a small faint hazy patch of light.

M94 is one of the nearest galaxies beyond our Local Group of Galaxies. It's located about 16 million light years distance and belongs to the M94 Group, a collection of between 16 and 24 galaxies lying within the Virgo Supercluster. The galaxy was discovered by Pierre Méchain on March 22, 1781 and subsequently confirmed and cataloged two days later by Charles Messier.

The constellation of Canes Venatici is faint but the brightest star Cor Caroli (α CVn - mag. +2.9) can be quite easily found since it's due south of the famous Plough or Big Dipper asterism of Ursa Major. The second brightest star in the constellation is Chara (β CVn - mag. +4.2), located just over 5 degrees northwest of Cor Caroli. M94 is 3 degrees east and a fraction south of Chara. Keep continuing eastwards and you will reach the fine Sunflower Galaxy (M63).

M94 Spiral galaxy (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Finder Chart for M94 (also shown M51, M63, M101, M106 and M109)

Finder Chart for M94 (also shown M51, M63, M101, M106 and M109) - pdf format

Through any telescope M94 appears unmistakable as a galaxy. A small 80mm (3.1-inch) instrument shows a fuzzy patch with a distinct bright central core. When viewed through a medium size scope of the order of 150mm (6-inch) or 200mm (8-inch) aperture it offers more detail. The galaxy nucleus appears as a brilliant condense point of light that shines through the mist of the surrounding compact nebulosity; somewhat like an eye staring back at you. The halo appears smooth but hints at the spiral nature of the object. Even larger amateur instruments show mottling, a brighter ring around the core and exquisite details.

M94 is a rare galaxy in that it contains two star forming or starburst rings of interstellar material. The inner ring has a diameter of 70 arc seconds, the outer ring 600 arc seconds and both regions are of strong star forming activity.

In total the galaxy spans 11.2 x 9.2 arc minutes of apparent sky, which corresponds to a spatial diameter of 50,000 light-years. It's estimated to contain about 40 billion stars. The galaxy is best seen from the Northern Hemisphere during the months of March, April or May.

M94 Data Table

NameCats Eye Galaxy
Object TypeSpiral galaxy
ConstellationCanes Venatici
Distance (kly)16,000
Apparent Mag.8.5
RA (J2000)12h 50m 53s
DEC (J2000)41d 07m 12s
Apparent Size (arc mins)11.2 x 9.2
Radius (light-years)25,000
Number of Stars40 Billion
Notable FeatureOne of the brightest galaxies in the M94 Group

Sky Highlights - March 2017

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak now visible with binoculars as it heads towards perihelion

Mercury heading towards greatest elongation east

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for March 2017

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (mag. -4.8 to -4.1 - first half of month), Mars (mag. +1.3 to +1.5), Uranus (mag. +5.9), Mercury (mag. -1.5 to -0.4 - second half of month)
Southeast:- Jupiter (mag. -2.3 to -2.5)
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (first half of month), Mars, Uranus
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn
West:- Jupiter
Northeast:- Saturn
East:- Neptune (mag. +8.0 - second half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Melotte 111 - Mel 111 - The Coma Star Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)

Messier 67 - M67 - Open Cluster
Messier 51 - M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 97 - M97 - The Owl Nebula (Planetary Nebula)
Messier 101 - M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 65 – M65 – Spiral Galaxy
Messier 66 - M66 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
Messier 95 - M95 - Barred Spiral Galaxy
Messier 96 - M96 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4244 - Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4565 - Needle Galaxy - Spiral Galaxy

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