A giant elliptical galaxy, M87 (NGC 4486)
AAO image reference AAT 60.    « Previous || Next »

Messier 87 (NGC 4486) and its globular clusters in the Virgo cluster, m87.jpg, ngc4486.jpg
Top left is NE. Image width is about 8 arc min
Image and text © 1987-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory, photograph by David Malin.


Messier 87 (NGC 4486) is at the heart of the cluster of galaxies in Virgo and has a mass many times that of the Milky Way, itself no lightweight. Unlike our galaxy however, M87 is an elliptical galaxy. Though it appears more-or-less spherical on this photograph, a deep image shows it to be markedly elongated. Also unlike the Milky Way, M87 contains relatively little gas and dust. It is composed mainly of cool stars, which gives it a yellowish colour, in contrast to the blue of spiral galaxies. Despite the lack of star-forming materials, M87 is not a quiescent backwater. It is a powerful source of radio waves and the orbits of stars near its nucleus suggest they are held by a very massive, extremely compact core. Also, from the nucleus (but not seen here) extends a curious jet, all of which suggests that a massive black hole is hidden in the bright core of the galaxy.

Related Images
AAT 53 .    Messier 87 (NGC 4486) and its globular clusters
UKS 31.    M84, M86 and M87, and Markarian's Chain in Virgo
n4486_d   NGC 4486 (M87), deep image
Constellation of Virgo (external site)

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, August 1