Messier 87

M87,Virgo A,NGC 4486

Messier 87

Distance: 60 Million Light Years
Magnitude: 8.6
Size: 7 Arc Minutes
Galaxy Type: Elliptical
Telescope: 10” RC
Mount: AP 900
Camera: QSI 683
Exposure: L 17×600 Bin 1, RGB 12×300 Bin 2

Messier 87 is an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo. Also known as Virgo A, M87 is a very large elliptical galaxy and appears featureless when compared to spiral and irregular galaxies. At 120,000 light years in diameter it easily surpasses our Milky Way galaxy in size and also in star count. But this diameter is just the main part of the galaxy. When you take in the halo surrounding the galaxy the diameter is close to 1,000,000 light years! Everything about M87 is huge including the 15,000 globular clusters dispersed throughout the galaxy. It is thought that some of these globular clusters were stripped away from nearby galaxies due to past interactions. For comparison, our Milky Way galaxy contains about 200 globular clusters. It has been estimated that M87 is home to several trillion stars compared to about 400 billion star in our galaxy.

At the center of Messier 87 is a super massive black hole that has the mass of 3.5 billion suns. Ejected from this area is a massive spiral jet moving away from the core at close to the speed of light. I was barely able to capture it but for a stunning image captured by the HST click here. This jet is cylindrical in shape but has several knots that appear about 60 parsecs from the core. The jet tapers off much like a puff of smoke at its furthest point from the core.

This image was captured from my home in a Bortle 6 zone with a limiting magnitude of 5.5 and an SQM of 18.9. The sky was clear with humidity varying from 70-85%. This image was captured in one night.

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