Messier 104 The Sombrero Galaxy
Distance: 28 Million Light Years
Size: 9 x 4 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Spiral Sa-Sb + Elliptical
Telescope: 10” RC
Mount: AP 900
Camera: QSI 683
Exposure: L 15×600 Bin 1, RGB 20×300 Bin 2
Messier 104, aka the Sombrero galaxy, is a hybrid elliptical/spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo. The two most prominent features are the large bright halo and the dust lane across the galaxy. Also prominent in short exposures are spiral arms that are partially obscured by the halo. The classification of an elliptical galaxy with spiral arms was made in 2012 using the Spitzer space telescope. It is not understood how a galaxy can be spiral in shape yet have characteristics of being an elliptical galaxy.
The outer halo contains about 2000 globular clusters which is more than 10 times the amount in our Milky Way. The age of these clusters ranges from 10-13 billion years which is very similar to the ages of the globular clusters in our galaxy. It is estimated that there are several hundred billion stars in M104 spread out over the 50,000 light years diameter of the galaxy. In addition to all of the globular clusters, there have been 294 cataloged planetary nebulas in Messier 104.
The dust lane that forms the brim of the Sombrero galaxy is an active star forming region. Close up images show large open clusters of young hot stars along with HII regions. The dust lane spans the entire 50,000 light year diameter of the galaxy however it is not very deep.
This image was captured from a site with a limiting magnitude of 6.48 and a magnitude per arc second of 20.86. The sky was clear and humidity was about 30%. There was small breeze at times ranging from 3-5 mph. This image was captured in one evening.
Click here for a zoomable image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.