M64 is a beautiful spiral galaxy known as the Black Eye Galaxy due to a spectacular dark band of absorbing dust in front of the nucleus, resulting 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.

The Black Eye 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 discovered by William Herschel in 1785, comparing it to a black eye.

It's located 5 degrees northwest of Diadem (α Com - mag. +4.3) on an imaginary line connecting stars, 35 Com (mag. +4.9) and 40 Com (mag. +5.5), with M64 positioned one degree northeast of 35 Com. Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern section of the sky and fourth brightest overall is located 19 degrees east and a little south of M64.

The galaxy is 24 Million light-years distant and has an apparent size of 10.0 x 5.4 arc minutes, which corresponds to an actual linear 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 (AURA/STScI))

Finder Chart for M64 (also shown M3 and M53)

Finder Chart for M64 (also shown M3 and M53) - pdf format

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

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

The Black Eye Galaxy is an extremely rewarding telescope object that's one of the brightest and easily observed galaxies anywhere in the sky. When viewed through a 100mm (4-inch) telescope, it appears irregular in shape with 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 it's easier with larger scopes. When viewed through 150mm (6-inch) instruments, the oval-shaped is accentuated and the dark dust lane easy to spot. A 200mm (8-inch) scope reveals the dark patch, a sharp condensed bright core surrounded by a large outer envelope of wispy nebulosity - a wonderful sight!

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

M64 Data Table

NameBlack Eye Galaxy
Object TypeSpiral galaxy
ConstellationComa Berenices
Distance (kly)24000
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 - April 2017

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