M104, the Sombrero galaxy, NGC 4594 (wide field)
AAO image reference AAT 100a.    « Previous || Next »

Messier 104, the Sombrero galaxy, NGC 4594 sombrero.jpg, M104.jpg, ngc4594.jpg
Top left is NE. Image width is about 19 arc min
Image and text © 1999-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory, photograph by David Malin.

The Sombrero, named after the broad-brimmed Mexican hat it superficially resembles, is probably the most famous galaxy in the sky. The light from this remarkable spiral system is dominated by the billions of old, faint stars that form the vast 'bulge' around its tiny hidden nucleus. Most spirals, including the Milky Way, have clouds of old, faint stars around their nuclei, but in M104 the galaxy's light is dominated by them. This effect is enhanced because disk of the galaxy is seen nearly edge-on and dust in its outer parts is in silhouette as it crosses the picture. Within the dusty disk are low contrast structures that show this galaxy to be a genuine spiral, immersed in an unusually large central bulge. The bulge is seen best on a deep image and is much bigger than it appears here. It also shows some extremely faint features that are suggestive of tidal tails -- merger remnants. The galaxy is about 65 million light years distant on Virgo's southern border.

Related Images
AAT 100     Messier 100 (NGC 4594), the Sombrero galaxy
AAT 100b   The Sombrero galaxy, very wide field
n4594_d     NGC 4594 (M104), deep image
n4594_ud   NGC 4594 (M104), ultra-deep image
Constellation of Virgo (external site)

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, August 1