M64 “Black Eye” Galaxy

click the picture


17 million light-years from Earth lies Messier 64, otherwise known as the Black Eye Galaxy, or Sleeping Beauty. Discovered in 1779 by Edward Pigott, astronomers thought for centuries that it was a fairly ordinary spiral galaxy.


But recent observations, including those of the Hubble telescope, have revealed something truly extraordinary about M64. While it is true that all of the stars are rotating in the same direction, it appears that the gases in the outer regions of the galaxy are going the other way! Where the two opposite-rotating regions intersect, a vast circle of new stars can be clearly seen, shining bright blue and pink in the photo. What could be the cause of this unusual phenomenon?


Astronomers believe that perhaps a billion or so years ago, a smaller galaxy was sucked into M64. Since then, all of its stellar matter has been absorbed, leaving only the contrary rotating gases as a vestige of its existence.


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