Astronomy Picture of the Day

M64: The Black Eye Galaxy

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M64: The Black Eye Galaxy

Explanation: This bright, beautiful spiral galaxy is Messier 64, sometimes known as the Black Eye Galaxy. M64 lies about 17 million light-years distant in the otherwise well-groomed northern constellation Coma Berenices. The dark clouds along the near-side of M64's central region that give the galaxy its black-eye appearance are enormous obscuring dust clouds associated with star formation, but they are not the galaxy's only peculiar feature. Observations show that M64 is actually composed of two concentric, counter-rotating systems of stars, one in the inner 3,000 light-years and another extending to about 40,000 light-years and rotating in the opposite direction. The dusty black eye and bizarre rotation is likely the result of a merger of two different galaxies.

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