Friday, February 06, 2004

We're All Stars
The Hubble Space Telescope has snapped a new image of the "Black Eye" galaxy, so named because an ancient cosmic smashup produced a dark ring and a roiling, conflicted interior.
What looks like a black eye in the Hubble picture is actually a dark band of dust that stands out vividly in front of the galaxy's bright nucleus, Hubble scientists said in a statement on Thursday.

The galaxy is officially known as M64, but astronomers have nicknamed it the "Black Eye" or "Evil Eye" galaxy.

In some earlier images, the "Black Eye" appears to be a fairly normal spiral galaxy. And as happens in most galaxies, all the stars in M64 are rotating in the same direction.

But detailed studies in the 1990s found that while all the stars are heading the same way, interstellar gas at the outer reaches of the galaxy is rotating in the opposite direction.

At the point where the stars and gas shear against each other, the gases collide and get smashed together, creating a region of active star formation, the scientists said.

The new image shows an area where hot blue stars have just formed, along with pink clouds of hydrogen gas that glow when exposed to ultraviolet light from the infant stars.

Astronomers believe M64's internal conflict arose when the "Black Eye" absorbed a satellite galaxy that collided with it, perhaps more than a billion years ago.
Imagine. Internal conflict resulting in the creation of stars. Hubble will be missed; let's enjoy it while we can.


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