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Messier 87 (NGC 4486) is at the heart of the Virgo cluster and has a mass many times that of the Milky Way, itself no lightweight. Unlike our galaxy however, M87 is approximately spherical and contains relatively little gas and dust. It is composed mainly of cool stars, which gives it a yellowish colour, in contrast to the blue of spiral galaxies. Despite the lack of star-forming materials, M87 is not a quiescent backwater. It is a powerful source of radio waves and the orbits of stars near its nucleus su ggest they are held by a very massive, extremely compact core. Also, from the nucleus (but not seen here) extends a curious jet, all of which suggests that a massive black hole is hidden in the bright core of the galaxy. (© D. Malin)
Courtesy David Malin, Anglo-Australian Observatory
© Anglo-Australian Telescope Board, 1992
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