M64 is a beautiful spiral galaxy that's known as the Black Eye Galaxy, due to a spectacular dark band of absorbing dust in front of the nucleus that results in a smudged appearance. With an apparent magnitude of +8.8, it can be glimpsed with good binoculars on dark nights appearing as a faint slightly irregular patch of light.

This galaxy is located in the constellation of Coma Berenices and was discovered by English astronomer Edward Pigott on March 23, 1779. Twelve days later Johann Elert Bode independently found it and Charles Messier adding it to his catalogue on March 1, 1780. The dark dust feature was first noticed by William Herschel in 1785, who coined the black eye name.

M64 is located 5 degrees northwest of Diadem (α Com - mag. +4.3) on an imaginary line connecting stars, 35 Comae Berenices (mag. +4.9) and 40 Comae Berenices (mag. +5.5). It's positioned one degree northeast of 35 Comae Berenices. Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern section of the sky and fourth brightest overall is located 19 degrees to the east and a couple of degrees to the south. M64 is located 24 Million light-years distant and has an apparent size of 10.0 x 5.4 arc minutes, which corresponds to an actual diameter of 70,000 light-years. It's estimated to contain 100 billion stars and is best seen from northern latitudes during the months of March, April and May.

M64 The Black Eye Galaxy by the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA, The Hubble Heritage Team (credit:- AURA/STScI))

Finder Chart for M64 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M64 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M87 (also shown M49, M53, M58->M60, M64->M66, M84->M86, M88->M91 and M98->M100) (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for M87 (also shown M49, M53, M58->M60, M64->M66, M84->M86, M88->M91 and M98->M100) - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

The Black Eye Galaxy is an extremely rewarding telescope object that's one of the brightest and easily observed spirals in the sky. When viewed through a 100mm (4-inch) telescope, it appears irregular in shape with a general uneven brightness and a large bright core. On nights of excellent seeing, the characteristic standout dark dust lane can be glimpsed with a telescope of this size but is much easier to spot with larger scopes. When viewed through 150mm (6-inch) instruments, the oval-shaped is accentuated with the dark dust lane quite apparent. A 250mm (10-inch) scope reveals the dark patch, a sharp condensed bright core surrounded by a large outer envelope of wispy nebulosity. It's a superb object.

To date, no supernova has ever been recorded in M64.

M64 Data Table

NameBlack Eye Galaxy
Object TypeSpiral galaxy
ConstellationComa Berenices
Distance (light-years)24 Million
Apparent Mag.+8.8
RA (J2000)12h 56m 44s
DEC (J2000)+21d 40m 58s
Apparent Size (arc mins)10.0 x 5.4
Radius (light-years)35,000
Number of Stars100 Billion
Notable FeatureAlso known as Sleeping Beauty Galaxy or sometimes Evil Eye Galaxy

Sky Highlights - July 2017

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for July

Meteor Shower
Southern Delta Aquariids (Aquarids) meteor shower peaks on July 29

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Mercury (mag. -0.5 to +0.3) (second half of month)
Southwest:- Jupiter (mag. -2.0)
South:- Saturn (mag. +0.2)
West:- Jupiter
South:- Saturn
East:- Neptune (mag. +7.8)
Southwest:- Saturn
South:- Neptune
Southeast:- Uranus (mag. +5.8)
East:- Venus (mag. -4.1)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Mercury (second half of month)
Northwest:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn
West:- Jupiter
North:- Saturn
East:- Neptune
West:- Saturn
North:- Neptune
Northeast:- Venus, Uranus

Deep Sky

Small telescopes:-
Messier 13 - M13 - Great Hercules Globular Cluster
Messier 92 - M92 - Globular Cluster
Messier 11 - M11 - The Wild Duck Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 7 - M7 - The Ptolemy Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 6 - M6 - The Butterfly Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 4 - M4 - Globular Cluster
Messier 8 - M8 - Lagoon Nebula (Emission Nebula)
Messier 16 - M16 - Eagle Nebula (Emission Nebula with Open Cluster)
Messier 20 - M20 - Trifid Nebula (Emission and Reflection Nebula)

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