Of the various spiral galaxies that astronomers have discovered so far, the Black Eye Galaxy is one of the most fascinating galaxies. In this article, we are going to learn several interesting Black Eye Galaxy facts and find out where it is located, how far it is from our Earth and it characteristics in general. So, without further ado, let us begin…

Galaxy NameBlack Eye Galaxy, Evil Eye Galaxy, Sleeping Beauty Galaxy, PKS 1254+21, NGC 4826, UGC 8, M64, Mesier 64
Galaxy TypeSpiral
Striking FeatureBlack band of dust obscuring the bright core
DiscoveryEdward Pigott in 1779, Johann Elert Bode in 1779 and Charles Messier in 1780
Band DiscoveryDark dust band discovered by William Herschel in 1785
ConstellationComa Berenices
Number of Stars100 billion approximately
Distance from Earth~ 17 million light years as per NASA | other sources say it to be ~ 24 million light years | some other sources put it in the range 12 million light years and 44 million light years
Apparent Magnitude9.36
Diameter~ 51,000 light years
Mass of Galaxy~ 400 million M where M means solar mass that is, mass of our Sun
GroupM94 Group or Canes Venatici I Group in Virgo Supercluster

Interesting Black Eye Galaxy Facts: 1-5 | Names, Location and Discovery

1. Black Eye Galaxy has several names. They are Evil Eye Galaxy, Sleeping Beauty Galaxy, Messier 64 (or M64). There are three other names including PKS 1254+21, UGC 8 and NGC 4826.

2. Sitting in the constellation called Coma Berenices, the galaxy is at a distance of 24 million light years from our Earth, which translates into 7.36 Mega Parsecs.

3. Three people discovered the galaxy at three different times independently. The first person to discover the Black Eye Galaxy was Edward Pigott – an English astronomer – in the year 1779. The exact date of his discovery was March 23.

4. The next person to discover the Evil Eye Galaxy was Johann Elert Bode – a German astronomer – in the same year – 1779. However, he discovered it on April 4.

5. Finally, the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy was discovered by Charles Messier in 1780 on March 1 and cataloged it as M64.

Interesting Black Eye Galaxy Facts: 6-10 | Discovery and Features

6. Interestingly, despite Pigott being the first person to discover the galaxy, his discovery was not published until January of 1781. Bode, who discovered it second was the one who published his discovery earlier in year 1779.

7. Messier’s discovery was published the very same year in which he had discovered the galaxy.

8. Coming to the features of M64, it is pretty unusual. Right in front of central region of the galaxy is an enormous band of light-absorbing dust. It is this band of dust that has earned the moniker of Black Eye Galaxy or Evil Eye Galaxy.

9. M64 can be easily spotted using small telescopes and hence, it is very popular among amateur astronomers equipped with low-end telescopes.

10. The galaxy has two distinct disks. These disks rotate in directions opposite to one another and the masses of the two disks are more or less equal.

Interesting Black Eye Galaxy Facts: 11-15 | Features

11. The inner disk is made of lanes of spectacular clouds of dust. This inner disk rotates clockwise. The stars present in the core region rotate in the same direction, i.e., clockwise.

12. The outer disk of gas rotates in the opposite direction, i.e., in counterclockwise direction. The total area over which the gases of the outer region span out is approximately 40,000 light years.

13. The radius of the inner disk is around 3,000 light years and this disk rotates at a very high speed of 300 kmps or kilometers per second.

14. The Evil Eye Galaxy is known for intense starburst activity. The possible explanation that scientists have come up with is that the inner disk rubs with the outer disk because of opposite rotation, resulting in the starburst.

15. To be more precise, when the gases of the two disks collide with each other, they get compressed and contracted and as a result, new stars are born.

Interesting Black Eye Galaxy Facts: 16-20 | Features

16. As far as the two counter-rotating disks of gases are concerned, scientists have come up with two possible explanations. One explanation is that the Black Eye Galaxy is possibly in the process of ongoing accretion. That is, it is pulling gas clouds from its vicinity.

17. The other possible explanation is that a smaller galaxy rich in gas and with a retrograde orbit collided with the M64 and the two merged.

18. Scientists say that if the second option was true, the merge took place at least for a billion years and this sinister look that he galaxy has.

19. The scientists also say that the dark dust that obscures the bright core of the Evil Eye Galaxy is basically the material leftover from the galaxy that collided with it. This remnant material, according to the scientists, is yet to settle into M64’s disk’s orbital plane.

20. The Apparent Magnitude (measure of brightness of a celestial object) of the Black Eye Galaxy is 9.36.

Interesting Black Eye Galaxy Facts: 21-25 | Exact Position and General Facts

21. The Evil Eye Galaxy’s exact location is quite difficult to trace. It sits at a point that is 3/4th of a degree of east-northeast of 35 Comae Berenices – a 5th magnitude yellow giant star.

22. Again, the 35 Comae Berenices is located at 4 to 5 degrees north-northeast of a binary star called Alpha Comae Berenices or Diadem.

23. There are about 100 billion stars in Black Eye Galaxy. The galaxy is moving away from us at a high speed of 408 km/s.

24. The Black Eye Galaxy is a radio source. This is the reason why the galaxy has been named as PKS 1254+21.

25. The Evil Eye Galaxy is a member of M94 Group or Canes Venatici I Group or Canes Venatici Cloud. It is basically a loose galaxy group sitting inside Virgo Supercluster, which in turn is located in two constellations called Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices.

Interesting Black Eye Galaxy Facts: 26-30 | General Facts

26. The M94 Group has been named after a very bright spiral galaxy known as M94. This M94 galaxy is known by two other names – Croc’s Eye Galaxy or Cat’s Eye Galaxy.

27. The distance of 24 million light years (the distance of Black Eye Galaxy from our Earth) is only an estimate. It is not accurate at all. To get an accurate measure, one needs to find Cepheid variables in a galaxy. No such variable is found in the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy.

28. Despite the fact that the galaxy was independently discovered by three different astronomers, none of they actually found the dark dust band. It was found in 1785 by William Herschel.

29. No supernova explosion has been observed in the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy so far by any astronomer in world.

30. A pair of very good binoculars can be used for viewing the galaxy on a clear night. However, in order to be able to see the black oval eye of the galaxy, one needs to use a telescope with an aperture of 10 cm to 15 cm. The bright core and the outward spiraling arms of the constellation can be seen only with large telescopes.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI); Acknowledgment: S. Smartt (Institute of Astronomy) and D. Richstone (U. Michigan)

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