M64 -- Black-Eye Galaxy in Coma Berenices
How Did M64 Get A Black Eye?
A distinctive dark dust-lane runs along the edge of the bright nucleus of the Spiral Galaxy
M64. For that reason, it is called the Black-Eye Galaxy. From my backyard in suburbia, I
can, on a good night, make out the dust-lane “the black eye” with my 6-inch refractor, but it
is a challenge. John Mallas, author of the 1978 “The Messier Album” claimed that he could
make out the black eye with a 2.4-inch refractor. I have tried to repeat this feat with my own
2.4-inch f/15 refractor several times under truly dark skies but have always failed. Regardless,
I think that a good quality moderate-sized telescope under clear skies can make out the
Black-Eye in M64 even in skies with some light pollution.
M64 is also noted as a galaxy that has two rotating disks of ionized gas and neutral hydrogen
moving in opposite directions at different distances from the nucleus. The galaxy has obviously
Both the counter-rotating disks of gas and the dark dust-lane are the result of a collision a billion or
so years ago with another smaller galaxy. The Black-Eye was formed during the heavy-weight