GALAXY CLUS­TER

Sky at Night Magazine - - THE VIRGO GALAXIES -

Ask a sea­soned stargazer to name one of their favourite spring gal­ax­ies to ob­serve and chances are it’ll be lo­cated in Virgo. The con­stel­la­tion boasts an ex­tra­or­di­nary ar­ray of ga­lac­tic trea­sures, in­clud­ing some of the most fa­mous in the sky. It’s per­haps no sur­prise then that many of the gal­ax­ies crowd­ing into this part of the heav­ens are as­so­ci­ated, that is they’re all part of an enor­mous – and in cos­mic terms rel­a­tively nearby – group­ing known as the Virgo Galaxy Clus­ter. Re­cent sur­veys sug­gest that there are some 1,900 gal­ax­ies in this clus­ter, which sits roughly 56 mil­lion lightyears from the Milky Way.

The clus­ter counts within its num­ber many rel­a­tively bright gal­ax­ies that are fa­mil­iar to am­a­teur as­tronomers – for ex­am­ple M87 as well as M86, M84 and the others that make up the sweep­ing curve of gal­ax­ies known as Markar­ian’s Chain. The heart of the clus­ter it­self lies in the re­gion around 6° west of the star Vin­demi­a­trix (Ep­silon Vir­gi­nis). How­ever, mod­ern stud­ies have shown that there are mem­bers of the clus­ter spread all over this patch of sky, with some in neigh­bour­ing con­stel­la­tions of Coma Berenices and Leo too.

The string of gal­ax­ies known as Markar­ian’s Chain can be seen through small tele­scopes

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