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Messier 87 Hubble WikiSky.jpg
Observational Data
Designation Messier 87
NGC 4486
Right ascension 12h 30m 48s
Declination +12° 24′ 0″
Constellation Virgo
Type of object Elliptical galaxy
Dimensions 7.2x6.8'[1]
Magnitude Apparent Mag: +9.59[1]
Absolute Mag: -22[1]
Redshift 0.00420±0.00012[2]
Distance from Earth 53.5 million light years[1]
Radial velocity 1256±36 km/s[2]

M87 (NGC 4486, Virgo A) is a galaxy situated in the Virgo cluster, in the constellation of Virgo and the 87th item in the Messier catalogue.[3] It is one of the largest galaxies known, containing trillions of stars[4] It is well known for its jet that extends for thousands of light years from its centre. M87 is an elliptical galaxy, with classification E0 or E1 meaning it is very nearly spherical and is thought to have a mass at least one trillion times that of the sun.[3]

Environment and Structure

M87 is an excellent example of an elliptical galaxy. As is expected of elliptical galaxies, it contains no dust lanes and very little dust, much less than that of the Milky Way. It is around 120,000 light years across, larger than the diameter of the Milky Way. It is thought to be the dominant galaxy in the Virgo cluster and likely to have several smaller satellite galaxies.[3] M87 contains an exceptionally large number of globular clusters, over 13,000 to be precise.[4] As a comparison, the Milky Way is known to contain approximately 200 globular clusters.[5]

Galactic Nucleus

The galaxy has an "active galactic nucleus" as the nucleus is visible is various wavelengths of light, including x-ray and radio.[6] A jet protrudes 5,000 ly from the central region of the galaxy and is visible in optical wavelengths, as well as x-ray and radio. The jet is thought to be caused by a supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy, with a mass 3.5 billion times greater than the sum. The light emitted is strongly polarized implying that is created by synchrotron radiation.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Messier 87: Virgo A from messier-objects.com
  2. 2.0 2.1 Messier 87:Virgo A from simbad.u-strasbg.fr
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 M87 from messier.seds.org, the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space
  4. 4.0 4.1 M87 from sci.esa.int
  5. M87 from freestarcharts.com
  6. M87 from space-facts.com