Since the very earliest beginnings of both Astronomy and Astrology, man has looked up to the stars and tried to make sense of them using references from the world around him, finding names for constellations in the shapes they make, reflective of what they see or believe, such as the Plough, Ursa the Bear or Orion’s Belt.
This tradition has been carried forward through scientific advancement, which is why, as shown in today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, with it’s wide, thin disc and thick, bulging central core of stars, Galaxy M104 is also known as the Sombrero Galaxy.
With Dusty, planet forming regions in the outer reaches, Globular star clusters in the middle and what is believed to be a super massive black hole in the core keeping the galaxy together, the Sombrero galaxy is one of the most enigmatic and recognisable galaxies we know of and still to this day, despite being first discovered in the late 1700’s, the Sombrero galaxy shows features that Astronomers are yet to fully understand or hypothesize on.
The natural phenomenon of pareidolia, whereby the human brain seeks to make sense of the shapes and images that it sees by assigning recognisable objects to random patterns is a common influence in the naming of celestial bodies, such as the Crab or Horse Head nebula, the Whirlpool Galaxy and other similar named cosmic landmarks.
Usually named when the images were first seen with much lower resolution than we are spoilt with today, many of the names given are now harder to reconcile with what we see, such as the aforementioned Crab Nebula, but not so with the Sombrero Galaxy, you can still clearly see why it was named such and it truly is one of the most beautiful galaxies we know.