The “Black Eye” galaxy, also known as M64 and more officially as NGC 4826, stands out because of a dark band of dusty debris that spreads out across one side of a brilliant nucleus. The gas in the non-stellar outer reaches rotates in the opposite direction from gas in the inner regions, possibly suggesting a merger with a gas-rich galaxy in the distant past. New stars are forming where the counter-rotating gas collides. Discovered by English astronomer Edward Pigott in 1779, NGC 4826 is located some 17 million light years from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices and is a familiar target for amateur astronomers. This spectacular view was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Astrophysicists have taken a major step forward in understanding how supermassive black holes formed. Using data from three of NASA’s space telescopes, Italian researchers have found the best evidence to date that the direct collapse of a gas cloud produced supermassive black holes in the early universe.
Earth came early to the party in the evolving universe. According to a new theoretical study, when our solar system was born 4.6 billion years ago only eight percent of the potentially habitable planets that will ever form in the universe existed. And, the party won’t be over when the Sun burns out in another 6 billion years. The bulk of those planets — 92 percent — have yet to be born.