Sombrero Galaxy Facts

The sombrero galaxy is so named because of its unusual appearing shape that is similar to the Mexican hat of the same name.

Sombrero Galaxy Profile

Also known as:Messier Object 104, M104 or NGC 4594
Type:Spiral Galaxy
Diameter:50,000 light years
Distance:29 light years
Mass:800 billion M☉
Number of Stars:100+ billion

It is an un-barred spiral galaxy that has a bright nucleus, a central bulge, and spiral arms that have a thick dust lane encircling the center that it passes through.

It is estimated that the Sombrero has several hundred billion stars. Our view of the Sombrero Galaxy is due to looking at it on its edge.

Scientists estimate that the Sombrero Galaxy is around 29 million light-years away from Earth.

Who discovered the Sombrero Galaxy

In 1781, Pierre Méchain made the first description of the Sombrero Galaxy.

However it wasn’t added to the Messier Catalog until 1921, 140 years later. Other well-known astronomers included the Sombrero Galaxy as part of their studies and research:

William Herschel, Charles Messier, and Camille Flammarion. Messier had hand-written notes to include Sombrero as part of what is now called the Messier Catalog.

Once added to the Messier Catalog, the Sombrero Galaxy was also named M104.

Unlike our own galaxy, astronomers think that the Sombrero Galaxy isn’t part of any galaxy group, but instead seem to be part of a string of unrelated galaxies that expand all the way out to Virgo.

Black Hole

The supermassive black hole that is at the center of the Sombrero Galaxy has star pattern movement that indicates that it could have the same mass as a billion of our own Suns.

Studies have shown that this black hole might be the most massive of any that have thus far been found at the center of a galaxy.

The Sombrero Galaxy has a brightness measured at nearing 9.0 and can easily be viewed with ordinary telescopes, and on a dark night it can even be seen with regular binoculars. It is around 3/10 the size of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The best time to view the Sombrero Galaxy is during the spring and early summer when it is between the Virgo and Corvus constellations.

Facts about the Sombrero Galaxy

  • One of the minor characters from the Superman comics is “Vartox.” He describes himself as coming from the planet Valeron in the “Sombrero Hat” Galaxy.
  • The 1960’s television show “The Outer Limits” included a picture of the Sombrero Galaxy at the end of each show in its credits.
  • Both the Milky Way and Sombrero Galaxies have globular clusters that are believed to be between 10 and 13 billion years old.
  • The Sombrero Galaxy has up to 2,000 globular clusters at its core, which is around 10 times that of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • Using both the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA has been studying the Sombrero Galaxy in both visible and infrared light.
  • Until 1912, astronomers thought that the Sombrero Galaxy was a spiral nebula inside the Milky Way.
  • Vesto Slipher, an American astronomer worked at the Lowell Observatory and proved that the Sombrero was a galaxy outside of the Milky Way.
  • Slipher’s studies also proved that the Sombrero Galaxy was moving away from the Milky Way Galaxy and this was the first recognition of the expansion of the universe.
  • There are over 7 billion people on Earth. Researchers have estimated that the Sombrero Galaxy contains a minimum of 100 stars for each person on Earth.
  • The “broad rim” of the hat shape is where the Sombrero has its dust lane that is made up of dust and hydrogen gas.
  • The Sombrero dust lane contains almost all of the galaxy’s molecular cold gas and is thought to be the main site where its stars are created.
  • Unlike some galaxies, researchers think that there aren’t many stars that form inside the Sombrero Galaxy’s nucleus.
  • The Sombrero Galaxy is different in that it has characteristics of both elliptical and spiral galaxies in its appearance.
  • Scientists speculated that the appearance of the Sombrero Galaxy looked like a spiral galaxy was swallowed by an elliptical galaxy. This would be impossible as it would destroy the spiral galaxy.
  • Scientists now speculate that the shape of the Sombrero Galaxy is a large elliptical galaxy is due to 9 million years ago when a large elliptical galaxy accumulated a lot of gas clouds that flattened out to form the shape of a spiral galaxy.


  • What is the Sombrero Galaxy named after?
    A Mexican hat
  • What does the broad rim of the Sombrero Galaxy contain?
    the dust lanehydrogen gas and dust
  • What is the reason that we see the Sombrero Galaxy in its shape?
    we are viewing the galaxy’s edge
  • Can you see the Sombrero Galaxy with binoculars or a regular telescope?
  • What is the scientific/Messier Catalog name for the Sombrero Galaxy?
  • How many light-years is the Sombrero Galaxy from Earth?
    29 million light-years