Elliptical Galaxy M87 (NGC 4486), type E1, in
Virgo, together with other galaxies in the Virgo Cluster.
the dominant galaxy in the closest big cluster to us, the Virgo Cluster of
galaxies, and lies at the distance of this cluster (about 60 million
M87's diameter of apparently about 7' corresponds to a
linear extension of 120,000 light years, more than the diameter of our Milky
Way's disk. However, as M87 fills a much larger volume, it contains
much more mass than our galaxy, in the order of several trillion
(10^12) solar masses.
M87 is famous for two peculiar features, a huge globular cluster system
(not resolved in this image), and a spectacular jet - just visible in the
top image to the top right of the core, but more apparent in the bottom,
This giant jet extends thousands of light years (estimated 7-8,000) and
consists of ejected gaseous material (high speed electrons) from the core of
the galaxy. This jet is powered by an object, probably a supermassive
black hole at the centre of M87, which has the mass of three billion suns,
but is concentrated into a space no larger than our solar system.