M106 (NGC 4258) -- Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici
A Tortured Galaxy
Take the great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) at 2.5 million light-years distance and move it to
24 million light years – then explode its nucleus hard enough to shatter and ignite the
star-forming regions in its spiral arms. What would you have? Well M106 in the
constellation of Canes Venatici would be close. M106 is a large spiral (about the same
actual-size and line-of-sight-orientation as the Andromeda Galaxy) but hosts a
supermassive black hole that is spewing energy and material from the galaxy’s nucleus.
Even in the small refractor the galaxy appears unorganized and distorted. The
Type-2-Seyfert-nucleus appears abnormally bright making M106 one of the brightest
galaxies in the night sky. The galaxy’s spiral arms are not consistent-looking but knotted
here-and-there with bright spots leaving comparably dark zones around them. The
whole galaxy looks tortured. I cannot help but think what a magnificent sight this galaxy
would be if it were at the same distance as our Local Group’s heavy weight (but tame in
comparison) the Andromeda Galaxy.