If you’re looking up at the sky, then one of the first places many people star is the Virgo constellation. It’s the second largest constellation in the sky, and it has the 17th brightest star in the sky too, Spica. In this constellation you’ll also find the famous Sombrero galaxy, just to the left of Spica.
As you can probably guess from its name, it does have a striking resemblance to a sombrero hat, with around 2,000 globular clusters currently noted down in the galaxy. So, let’s look at some facts about this intriguing system.
Sombrero Galaxy Facts
- The Sombrero galaxy has an estimated radius of 25,000 light years. This means that it is around half the size of the galaxy that we’re in, the Milky Way.
- The distance between our solar system and the Sombrero galaxy is estimated to be more than 31 million light years.
- We also refer to the Sombrero galaxy as M104. This is because it was number 104 is Charles Messier’s 110 object catalog of astronomical objects.
- When you look into the night sky, the Sombrero galaxy is located on the borders of the Virgo constellation and the Corvus constellation. It is located just to the West of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.
- We’re not 100% sure whether the Sombrero galaxy belongs to a group of other galaxies.
- The Sombrero galaxy was proven to have a supermassive black hole at its center in the 1990s. Astronomers now believe that almost every large galaxy has a black hole at its center.
- We think that the Sombrero galaxy is a similar age to our Milky Way. It was likely formed just after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.
- Although we aren’t entirely sure, it’s estimated that there’s around 100 billion stars in the Sombrero galaxy.
- The best time of the year to see the Sombrero galaxy is typically springtime in the Northern hemisphere.
- We see the Sombrero galaxy from its side profile, which is what gives it its sombrero-like appearance.
- Like the Triangulum galaxy, this is a spiral type. It is just our perspective of the galaxy that gives it its sombrero shape.
Common Questions about the Sombrero Galaxy
When was the Sombrero galaxy discovered?
Like many other astronomical objects, the Sombrero galaxy was discovered in 1781 by Pierre Mechain, a French astronomer. Charles Messier was an associate of Mechain, who then included the Sombrero galaxy is his Messier catalog as number 104, which is why you’ll see this galaxy referred to as M104. However, the Sombrero galaxy was originally classified as a Nebula and later reclassified as a galaxy.
What type of galaxy is the Sombrero galaxy?
The Sombrero galaxy is a good example of a cross between and elliptical galaxy and a spiral galaxy. When a galaxy is somewhere between the two, we refer to it as a lenticular galaxy. This means that it has a large disc, but not the spiral arms of a spiral galaxy.
Why is it called the Sombrero galaxy?
When you look at the Sombrero galaxy, it’s quite easy to see why it has been named as such. It is called as such because it looks like a giant sombrero!
How far is the Sombrero galaxy from Earth?
Astronomers estimate that the Sombrero galaxy is around 31 million light years away from our planet Earth. This means that when we’re looking at the Sombrero galaxy, we’re actually looking at what it looked like 21 million light years ago!
Can I see the Sombrero galaxy?
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to see the Sombrero galaxy with the naked eye. However, it is possible to see it quite clearly with a set of binoculars or any cheap telescope set, as it is quite bright and easy to locate.
In conclusion, the Sombrero galaxy is undoubtedly one of the most interesting galaxies in our universe. With it’s bright appearance, it makes for a great place for kids to start if they’re interested in astronomy – find the Sombrero in the sky! Hopefully, this has helped you learn a little bit about the Sombrero galaxy.