Virgo A

M87, NGC 4486

A truly immense Elliptical Galaxy some 53.5 million light years from Earth, lying at the heart of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. The cluster covers a considerable area of the sky stretching between Virgo and its neighbouring constellation to the north, Coma Berenices, with Virgo A falling just to the south of the border between these constellations, so placing it within Virgo.

This is the most massive galaxy within the Virgo Cluster, approximately two hundred times more massive than our own Milky Way Galaxy. As such, it is a dominant gravitational force within the cluster, and is designated the central point of the entire galactic group. It also forms part of major subgroup of galaxies within the main cluster, also designated 'Virgo A'.

The galaxy itself is of Elliptical - indeed, almost spherical - shape, with a distinguishing feature being a jet of material emerging from its centre. This jet of plasma is ejected by the supermassive black hole that lies at the core of the galaxy, which is also responsible for making Virgo A an intense radio source (indeed strictly 'Virgo A' properly refers to this radio source, while the galaxy itself is Messier 87).

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