When one thinks of an elliptical galaxy, the first name to pop is M87 Galaxy. In this article about M87 Galaxy facts, we are going to explore some really cool facts.
If you are a stargazer or a sky watcher, you may already know some of the facts here. Nonetheless, consider this article on M87 Galaxy facts as a refresher course.
Interesting M87 Galaxy Facts: 1-5
1. The M87 Galaxy was first discovered by Charles Messier. Isn’t that a common name for you by now? The discovery was made in 1781.
2. Messier was actually looking for objects in deep sky that comet watchers might think of as comets. He cataloged the M87 as a nebulous feature of the sky.
3. M87 actually stands for Messier 87 as it was the 87th object he cataloged. Officially, the galaxy is known as NGC 4486.
4. The M87 Galaxy is a true elliptical galaxy. In fact, it is a supermassive elliptical galaxy sitting in the Virgo constellation.
5. It is one of the most massive galaxies to be sitting in our local universe and is a part of the Virgo Cluster. In case you didn’t know, the Virgo Cluster is actually a collection of several thousand galaxies. The entire cluster moves through the universe together.
Interesting M87 Galaxy Facts: 6-10
6. This galaxy is the second brightest galaxy in the northern Virgo Cluster. It is also extremely far from our Earth.
7. The distance of the galaxy from our Earth is 53.5 million light years or 16.4 million parsecs.
8. Most interesting of the M87 Galaxy facts is that at its center is a supermassive black hole. As a matter of fact, it is the largest black hole known so far.
9. This black hole at the center of the M87 has a mass equivalent to 6.8 billion solar masses. In case that doesn’t give you a fair idea, think of its event horizon. The event horizon is the boundary of a black hole. Once anything gets into that boundary, nothing can escape the gravitational pull of the black hole, not even light! The event horizon of the black hole at center of M87 is 4 times the size of the orbit of our planet Neptune.
10. Just for the sake of comparison, the black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy is 1,000 smaller than the black hole at the center of M87.
Interesting M87 Galaxy Facts: 11-15
11. The black hole of the M87 Galaxy spits out a plasma jet which extends in universe up to 5,000 light years. To be precise, it is 1,500 parsecs or 4,900 light years.
12. The jet that is spat out by the black hole is made up of radiations of various wavelengths. It contains optical light, radio waves and X-Rays.
13. One of the most interesting M87 Galaxy facts is that it has 12,000 globular clusters orbiting the galaxy. Compared to that, our Milky Way has only 150 to 200 such globular clusters.
14. Yet another of interesting M87 Galaxy facts is that it looks like a fuzzy and fat watermelon. This look comes from the fact that it is a true elliptical galaxy and hence, no prominent dust lanes are present as in case of Milky Way or Pinwheel or similar spiral galaxies.
15. In other words, the galaxy has an ellipsoidal shape. The luminosity of the galaxy decreases as we move out from the center of the galaxy.
Interesting M87 Galaxy Facts: 16-20
16. The stars in the galaxy have a spherical distribution, which is symmetrical. The density of the stars is maximum close to the center and they thin out as the distance of the stars increase from the center.
17. Between the stars, the interstellar space is filled with gas that is rich in various elements that have been emitted out by evolved stars.
18. The diameter of the galaxy is almost the same as that of our Milky Way Galaxy. It is only 120,000 light years across. However, unlike our Milky Way, which looks like a thin disk, the M87 is very thick.
19. One of the most interesting M87 Galaxy facts is that its thickness makes it way more massive than our Milky Way. It is estimated that the mass of M87 is equal to 2.7 trillion solar masses.
20. Scientists estimate that this Giant Elliptical galaxy has nearly 400 billion stars. However, the evidence of star formation in this galaxy is very little.