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.
Galaxy clusters are often described by superlatives. After all, they are huge conglomerations of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter, representing the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity. New observations of the galaxy cluster SPT-CLJ2344-4243 (or Phoenix Cluster) at X-ray, ultraviolet, and optical wavelengths are helping astronomers better understand this extraordinary system.
A team of international scientists, led by astronomers from Cardiff University, has shown for the first time that galaxies can change their structure over the course of their lifetime. The researchers have shown that a large proportion of galaxies have undergone a major ‘metamorphosis’ since they were initially formed after the Big Bang.
NASA has successfully installed the first of 18 flight mirrors onto the James Webb Space Telescope — the successor to Hubble — beginning a critical piece of the observatory’s construction. Targeted for launch in 2018, the telescope’s 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 21.3-foot (6.5-metre) mirror.