Galaxies which exist in the vastness of space, consist of various celestial objects such as stars, clouds of dust, and gas, all of which are bound together by gravity. Most galaxies exist in groups or clusters with dozens or hundreds of members, and these cluster galaxies are all in constant motion, pulled and twisted by their neighbour’s gravity. Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the Universe bound by gravity and astronomers can use them to measure important cosmological properties, according to NASA.
Today’s NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day is a snapshot of the Virgo cluster of galaxies located about 50 million light-years away. According to NASA, the Virgo cluster is the nearest cluster of galaxies and contains over 2000 galaxies. This cluster also includes bright Messier galaxies such as M84 and M86 which are part of the Markarian’s Chain. Dominating this galaxy cluster is the giant elliptical galaxy M87.
Tech used to capture the image
This awesome snapshot was captured by astrophotographer Abdullah Al-Harbi using a cooled, back-illuminated QHY 268M astronomy camera and Askar FRA600 astronomy telescope, mounted on an iOptron CEM-40 tripod.
NASA’s description of the picture
Galaxies of the Virgo Cluster are scattered across this nearly 4 degree wide telescopic field of view. About 50 million light-years distant, the Virgo Cluster is the closest large galaxy cluster to our own local galaxy group. Prominent here are Virgo’s bright elliptical galaxies Messier catalog, M87 at bottom center, and M84 and M86 (top to bottom) near top left.
M84 and M86 are recognized as part of Markarian’s Chain, a visually striking line-up of galaxies on the left side of this frame. Near the middle of the chain lies an intriguing interacting pair of galaxies, NGC 4438 and NGC 4435, known to some as Markarian’s Eyes. Of course giant elliptical galaxy M87 dominates the Virgo cluster. It’s the home of a super massive black hole, the first black hole ever imaged by planet Earth’s Event Horizon Telescope.
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