Top 10 Deep-Sky Objects of May 2024

~5 min

May marks the last month of galaxy season in the Northern Hemisphere — a period when constellations that contain numerous galaxies (such as Virgo, Canes Venatici, and Coma Berenices) are high in the sky. That’s why we’ll focus mostly on galaxies in this article. However, there is one exception — a stunning bright nebula for Southern Hemisphere observers! We arranged the objects in the list from faintest to brightest; you can find out their location in the sky using the Sky Tonight astronomy app. Let’s get started!

Contents

10. Spindle Galaxy

Spindle Galaxy
  • Alternative names: NGC 5866
  • Apparent size: 4.7′ x 1.9′ (0.1 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 9.9
  • Constellation: Draco
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The Spindle Galaxy’s small size and edge-on orientation make it challenging to see even through small telescopes. So use a large telescope for its observation.
  • Description: NGC 5866 is a lenticular galaxy, which is an intermediate type between an elliptical and a spiral galaxy. One of the most intriguing features of NGC 5866 is the extended dust disk, which is very rare for lenticular galaxies. Some scientists even think that NGC 5866 is a spiral galaxy that was misclassified due to its edge-on orientation.

9. St. Catherine's Wheel Galaxy

St. Catherine's Wheel Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M99, NGC 4254, Coma Pinwheel Galaxy
  • Apparent size: 5.4′ × 4.7′ (0.1 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 9.9
  • Constellation: Coma Berenices
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: M99 can be seen in small telescopes but will only appear as a dim patch of light with a brighter center. If you want to see the galaxy's spiral structure, use a large telescope.
  • Description: M99 is a grand-design spiral galaxy located in the Virgo Cluster. It is slightly asymmetric in shape, probably due to interactions with other galaxies. M99 is one of the brighter spiral galaxies in the Virgo Cluster and is oriented so that its spiral structure is fully visible. This makes it a popular target for both professional and amateur astronomers.

8. Mirror Galaxy

Mirror Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M100, NGC 4321, Blowdryer Galaxy
  • Apparent size: 7.4′ × 6.3′ (0.2 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 9.3
  • Constellation: Coma Berenices
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: You can spot M100 with 20x80 binoculars or small telescopes — it will appear as a faint, hazy patch of light. Medium-sized telescopes will show you the galaxy’s bright core. Description: M100 is a vivid example of an intermediate grand-design spiral galaxy. It is one of the brightest and largest galaxies in the Virgo Cluster and has strong star formation activity.

7. Whale Galaxy

Whale Galaxy
  • Alternative names: NGC 4631, Caldwell 32
  • Apparent size: 15.5′ × 2.7′ (0.5 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 9.2
  • Constellation: Canes Venatici
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: You can try to spot the Whale Galaxy through large binoculars, but it’s better to use a telescope. A medium-sized one will allow you to see the intricate structure of the galaxy, including its central bulge, spiral arms, and the many bright star clusters scattered throughout it.
  • Description: NGC 4631 is a barred spiral galaxy. It received the nickname “Whale Galaxy” due to its wedge-like shape. The galaxy is similar in size to our own Milky Way Galaxy.

6. Sunflower Galaxy

Sunflower Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M63, NGC 5055
  • Apparent size: 12.6′ × 7.2′ (0.4 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.5
  • Constellation: Canes Venatici
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: It is possible to spot the Sunflower galaxy with binoculars — it will appear as a small, hazy patch of light. A small telescope will reveal it to be a galaxy, but its structure will not be visible.
  • Description: M63 is a so-called flocculent galaxy — a spiral galaxy without well-defined arms. In 1971, a supernova with a magnitude of 11.8 was observed in one of the galaxy’s arms.

5. Black Eye Galaxy

Black Eye Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M64, NGC 4826, Sleeping Beauty Galaxy, Evil Eye Galaxy
  • Apparent size: 10.7′ × 5.1′ (0.3 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.5
  • Constellation: Coma Berenices
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: You can see the Black Eye Galaxy with 10x50 binoculars or a small telescope — it will appear as a faint, elongated glow. Use a large telescope to see the galaxy's signature dark lane of dust.
  • Description: M64 is a spiral galaxy. It received its nickname due to a dark band of dust in front of its bright nucleus. It’s a popular object among amateur astronomers.

4. M106

M106
  • Alternative names: NGC 4258
  • Apparent size: 18.6′ × 7.2′ (0.6 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.4
  • Constellation: Canes Venatici
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: M106 is bright enough to be spotted with 10x50 binoculars as a faint patch of light. Through small telescopes, you will see the galaxy’s brighter center, while large telescopes will reveal its spiral structure.
  • Description: M106 is an intermediate spiral galaxy. It is one of the largest and brightest nearby galaxies, similar in size and luminosity to the Andromeda Galaxy.

3. Cat's Eye Galaxy

Cat's Eye galaxy
  • Alternative names: M94, NGC 4736, Crocodile Eye Galaxy
  • Apparent size: 11.2′ × 9.1′ (0.4 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.2
  • Constellation: Canes Venatici
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Under exceptionally dark and clear skies, the Cat’s Eye Galaxy is visible through binoculars as a small, dim patch of light. Telescopes will help you see the galaxy’s brighter center and hints of its spiral structure.
  • Description: M94 is a barred spiral galaxy. It is the brightest member of the M94 group of galaxies in the constellation Canes Venatici, which contains about 20 galaxies. Another Messier object in the group is M64, also known as the Black Eye Galaxy (number 5 on our list).

2. Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

Southern Pinwheel Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M83, NGC 5236
  • Apparent size: 12.9′ × 11.5′ (0.4 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 7.6
  • Constellation: Hydra
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: In areas away from light pollution, you can see the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy through 10x50 binoculars — it will look like a fuzzy patch with a bright center. If you want to see the galaxy’s spiral arms, use a telescope.
  • Description: M83 is a barred spiral galaxy. It is one of the nearest and most luminous galaxies observable from the Earth. Over the last century, six supernovae have been observed in M83 — only a handful of galaxies can boast that many supernovae.

1. Carina Nebula

Carina Nebula
  • Alternative names: NGC 3372, Caldwell 92, Eta Carinae Nebula, Great Carina Nebula
  • Apparent size: 120′ × 120′ (4 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 1.0
  • Constellation: Carina
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The Carina Nebula is so big and bright that you can see it with the naked eye — it will look like a fuzzy patch. Still, we advise using binoculars — the nebula will look much more impressive.
  • Description: NGC 3372 is one of the largest nebulae in the sky — four times larger than the Orion Nebula! Near the heart of the nebula lies Eta Carinae — a system of at least two stars, the largest of which is around 100 times as massive as the Sun. Stars of this size are extremely rare!

May deep-sky objects: Bottom line

Let’s celebrate the end of galaxy season by observing beautiful galaxies, like the Black Eye Galaxy and the Sunflower Galaxy. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, definitely try to see the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy and Carina Nebula — the latter is visible even with the naked eye! Use the Sky Tonight app to find any deep-sky object from our list in the sky. Also, take our readers’ favorite quiz called “Guess the Nebula”!

Guess the Nebula!
Astronomers are weird people and they often name things according to their strange ideas. Let’s see how weird you are – try to guess a nebula’s name from its picture!
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