Some 35 million light years away, tucked away in the constellation Canes Venatica, lies the beautiful Sunflower Galaxy. It is close to the size of the Milky Way, with light taking about 70,000 years to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other. M63 is part of a group of galaxies with M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy being the largest of the group. Note the cloud of dust and molecular gas that surrounds the M63. The stars on the outskirts of the galaxy are traveling so fast that if it were not for the gravitational interaction of this cloud upon the stars, they would most likely fly off into space. M51 and some smaller surrounding galaxies do have a significant gravitational impact on M63. One can see the result of at least one element of this interaction as a piece of M63 has broken off from the tidal forces of itís neighbors.
In the full frame image of this galaxy, 19 other galaxies can easily be seen in the background, much further away. The furthest, SDSS J131347.35+420458.5, lies approximately 4.2 billion light years away. A light year is approximately 6 trillion miles, which places this galaxy about 4.2 billion trillion miles or 4.2 times ten to the 21st power.
Date: May, 2008
Location: Starlodge Observatory
Telescope: Planewave 12.5 CDK
Camera: SBIG STL 11000
LRGB 200:120:120:120 (9 hours total exposure time)