Lazy Editors Think Astronomers Found the 'Eye of Sauron'

We'd like to believe it but, seeing the photos, we're not convinced

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A few hours ago, NASA released an image that shows the spiral galaxy NGC 4151. It was a huge gift to news agencies for two main reasons: 1) the image is fair game for reproduction  2) some astronomers privately call the black hole at the center of the galaxy the "Eye of Sauron" because they say it looks like the omniscient eye of the evil antagonist of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series--as interpreted by Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema.

Voila!  The lead practically writes itself. Cue the story from, which both CBS and MSNBC reprinted:

Hobbits and orcs may exist only in fiction, but a real-life supermassive black hole has spawned a structure that looks strikingly like the evil "Eye of Sauron" from J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" fantasy novels and the films inspired by them.

And then Britain's Daily Mail:

It is easy to see why astronomers called this object the Eye of Sauron, after the all-seeing symbol of evil in The Lord Of The Rings.

Problem is, it's not easy to see the connection at all. In fact, they really don't look much alike. Take a look at Tolkein's "Eye of Sauron" and astronomers' "Eye of Sauron." They both kind of look like eyes, but there the similarity ends. Please, are we missing something here? Or is it possible the astronomers were thinking pre-movie, simply attaching the name to a large eye in the sky?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.