Messier 64, Black Eye Galaxy

Messier 64. Image Credit: NASA, Hubble Heritage Team
Messier 64: Sometimes referred to as the “Black Eye Galaxy,” Messier 64 is a unique spiral galaxy with a very large, dark dust lane on its perimeter. Astronomers don’t think that this feature was a result of normal galaxy behavior, but is the result of a merger between M64 and a smaller satellite galaxy. This in itself is not strange as galaxies merge very often, however, the outer dust lanes in M64 rotate in a different direction than the inner ones. This factor is attributed to the galaxy merger, and results in star formation in the area where the counter rotating parts meet. Just like the Milky Way, M64 has 100 billion stars while being far smaller at only 35,000 light years apart. M64 is fairly bright for galaxies with a magnitude of 9.4. This makes it accessible to viewers with small telescopes in dark skies. To find Messier 64, find the constellation Coma Berenices. Then scan the area by Coma’s brightest star Diadem with binoculars or a finder scope. A few degrees Northwest of this star will be a fuzzy patch. This is M64. With small telescopes, one can see the the bright nucleus of the galaxy, and medium sized telescopes can glimpse the dark dust lane.

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