We recently featured a composite image of Chandra and Hubble data of the object known as M87. This object, which gets its name from being the 87th object in Charles Messier's catalog, is the giant elliptical galaxy in what is known as the Virgo Cluster. If you are interested in astronomy, you have probably heard of the Virgo Cluster. What makes this cluster of galaxies so important that it seems like astronomers use every type of telescope to study it? The short answer is that, at a distance of about 50 million light years, it is the nearest galaxy cluster to Earth, and it contains a fascinating galaxy known as M87.

M87

M87 is called a "dominant" galaxy, since it is the most massive and energetic object in the cluster. Over billions of years, M87 has grown by absorbing or cannibalizing other galaxies. It has an extent of one million light years or more, and contains trillions of stars, and much more mass in hot gas and dark matter. M87 also contains one of the most massive black holes known.

Galaxy clusters are the largest organized structures in the universe, and as such are important for understanding the evolution of matter in the universe. They contain three major components: stars, gas (most of it very hot), and dark matter, which account for roughly 3%, 12%, and 85% respectively of the total mass of the cluster. Observations with X-ray telescopes can map the distribution of hot gas and dark matter in the cluster, and help to understand how much of each component is present. This information in turn can give valuable insight into important issues such as the role of black holes in galaxy formation, and the nature of dark matter.

By measuring the speed of gas clouds with optical telescope in the central regions of M87, astronomers have concluded that a supermassive black hole of with a mass equivalent to three billion suns lurks there. Radio, optical and X-ray observations reveal evidence for a series of violent outbursts from this black hole. A series of unevenly spaced loops and bubbles visible in Chandra images indicate that small outbursts from close to the black hole occur about once every 6 million years.

The Virgo cluster of galaxies is an "irregular" cluster. This means that Virgo's more than 2000 members are scattered asymmetrically, and include a variety of different galaxy types. At 50 million light years away, Virgo is the closest major cluster and the center of our Local Supercluster. In fact, due to Virgo's immense mass, our Local Group of galaxies is affected by its gravity. Virgo's gravity is so strong that it pulls galaxies and groups of galaxies toward it. This effect is called the Virgo-Centric flow. Eventually, galaxies pulled toward Virgo may join the cluster.

Since it was launched in 1999, Chandra has observed M87 and the Virgo cluster many times. In addition to the recent image, take a look at previous releases:
2006 and 2004.

[Note, this entry was edited on 10/29/08]


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Wow,Surely we can't just be

Wow, Surely we can't just be the only intelligent species alive in this universe?


The Virgo Cluster

What a super photograph and don't it make us feel so insignificant as well?

Every time I look at these photos I just sit back in awe and just wonder:

Surely we can't just be the only intelligent species alive in this universe?

I only wished I could make more time to just gaze at the stars and galaxies more often.

I only wish I could live for a thousand years to see how far man has progresses and where we'll be at the end of that time.

Makes you wonder - don't it?


Wow, stunning photo and some

Wow, stunning photo and some great information to go with it, thanks.

Sarah


Flexoplex

Hi,
Thanks for sharing Such a nice information with us.I really like the Information that you have provided.


great post!

great post!


This is some great

This is some great information. Thanks for posting it.


I'm very happy to join this

I'm very happy to join this blog. I'm a physics student in U.A.E.Thank you for this blog & writing about "universe" such black holes, neutron stars, gravity etc.


The main reason it's so

The main reason it's so popular is that it's the nearest galaxy cluster to Earth, so you can see details that you couldn't hope to see in more distant galaxy clusters.

To take an extreme example with a different type of astronomical object, the best studied star is the nearest to us, the Sun. Of course, we don't depend on the Virgo Cluster to sustain life...

-Peter


It's really interesting

It's really interesting blog. I like science when I was in school, Thanks.


..

good information
i never understand about this, but i try to learn :)


first time

this is the first time i post a comment on this site it's a amazing descriptions on Virgo's cluster


RE:

What makes this cluster of galaxies so important that it seems like astronomers use every type of telescope to study it?

Nice & Great Site.


thank you

I'm very happy to join this blog. I'm a physics student in Turkey.Thank you for this blog & writing about "universe" such black holes, neutron stars, gravity etc.


Your blog is highly

Your blog is highly interesting. I especially like the picture you've chosen for this post about the Virgo Cluster. Where did you source that picture?

Angelo
-
OZScopes - The Australian Telescope Experts


Amazing

Wow, I agree. That is an incredible picture. I absolutely love astronomy!

Cheers!
Jeremy


good question angelo! I also

good question angelo! I also would like to know!


M87

The optical data of M87 were obtained with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in visible and infrared filters (data courtesy of P. Cote, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, and E. Baltz, Stanford University). Wide-field optical data of the center of the Virgo Cluster were also provided by R. Gendler (Copyright Robert Gendler 2006). The X-ray data were acquired from the Chandra X-ray Observatory's Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS), and were provided by W. Forman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) et al. The radio data were obtained by W. Cotton and also archive processing using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array (NRAO/VLA) near Socorro, New Mexico.
(More information is available at: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2008/m87/ )

Kim Arcand, CXC


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