Photo: Why does Nasa call this galaxy 'Evil Eye'?

The space agency shares picture captured by Hubble Space Telescope two years ago


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Photo: AFP file. For illustrative purposes only
Photo: AFP file. For illustrative purposes only

Published: Mon 27 Nov 2023, 12:28 PM

The National Aeronautics And Space Administration (Nasa) has shared a dazzling photo of a unique galaxy that is located 17 million light-years away from Earth. The galaxy, placed in the constellation Coma Berenices, is technically named Messier 64 (M64) or NGC 4826. However, it is popularly called “Black Eye” or “Evil Eye” because of a dark band of cosmic dust that moves around one side of its nucleus. The nucleus of a galaxy is its centre which is very bright because of the large concentration of stars within it.

Another thing that makes M64 fascinating is its internal motion. Unlike most galaxies within which the gases move in the same direction, in M64 the gases in the outer region and the inner region rotate in opposite directions. The new stars are formed in the parts where the rotating gases collide.

The photo was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on February 22, 2021. However, this galaxy was first discovered in 1779 by the English astronomer Edward Pigott. As per Nasa’s website, “M64 is well known among amateur astronomers because of its appearance in small telescopes.”

While sharing the photo of the galaxy, Nasa made a Lord of the Rings reference, writing “The beacons are lit”. Fans immediately caught on in the comments.

Many also expressed awe at the mesmerising beauty of outer space. An Instagram user wrote, “Nothing to say, the beauty of the universe is not quantifiable”.

Nasa often shares breathtaking pictures of the sky, space, and planets with its 97 million Instagram followers. Last week the space research agency shared a picture of the luminous phenomenon of ‘airglow’ surrounding the Earth.

The photo was taken on November 14 from the International Space Station (ISS) as it moved above the midwestern United States. Nasa explained that airglow is a faint glow of light on Earth's upper atmosphere. It is caused “when atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere, excited by sunlight, emit light in order to shed their excess energy.”


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