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M86

NGC 4406

One of the most prominent members of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies that straddles the border between Virgo and Coma Berenices. M86 falls just within the northern borders of Virgo, and forms part of a linear structure of galaxies running through the central parts of the cluster known as Markarian's Chain.

Physically M86 is Elliptical in form, and lies some 52 million light years from the Milky Way. This massive galaxy is moving rapidly into the core of the Virgo Cluster from the side opposite the Milky Way (and is therefore moving towards our own Galaxy).

As it passes through the cluster, M86 interacts gravitationally with other member galaxies, at present this is especially true of NGC 4438, one of the Eyes Galaxies that lie close by to the east in the sky. M86's progress through the cluster has left it with some unusual features: not only does it leave behind a trail of gas and particles as it travels, but it also has streams of orbiting material within its halo that betray its destruction of other less massive galaxies in the past (or possibly of globular clusters, of which M86 hosts a halo of about four thousand).

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