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Proper NamesVirgo Cluster, Virgo Group
DesignationVirgo I
ConstellationsComa Berenices, Virgo
Right Ascension12h 26m 32s
Declination+12° 43' 24"
(to central point)
c.65,000,000 light years
c.19,900,000 parsecs
DiameterApparent: c.8°
Actual: c.15,000,000 light years
Number of Galaxies1,300 - 2,000
Brightest GalaxyM49
Optimum VisibilityApril
NotesA large and populous cluster of hundreds of galaxies spreading across the border between Virgo and Coma Berenices. Its dense central region lies on the border between the two constellations, and is notable for a string of galaxies collectively known as a Markarian's Chain.

A vast and complex cluster of galaxies centred on a point some sixty-five million light years from our own Milky Way Galaxy. It occupies the northern parts of Virgo and the southern parts of Coma Berenices, straddling the border between the two constellations and covering an area of some 120 square degrees. It is easily located to the east of Leo, occupying a region of the sky that lies close 'behind' the seated Lion.

Map of the Summer Triangle Map of the Summer Triangle

The Virgo Cluster is far more dense than our own Local Cluster; the exact number of members it contains is uncertain, but there are at least 1,500 and perhaps as many as 2,000 separate galaxies of various types within the cluster. It lies at the centre of an even larger group, the Virgo Supercluster, of which the Local Group of galaxies, including the Milky Way, is an outlying member.

The most massive of the galaxies making up the Virgo Cluster is Virgo A or M87, a huge Elliptical Galaxy at the centre of the group. Despite its size, this is not the brightest of the objects in the cluster; that is Virgo B or M49, another Elliptical Galaxy that lies some four million light years closer to the Milky Way than Virgo A. This area is rich with other galaxies, including many from Messier's catalogue. As well as M49 and M87, these include M58, M59, M60, M61, M84, M85, M86, M88, M89, M90, M91, M98, M99 and M100.

A close view of the central regions of the Virgo Cluster, showing the string of galaxies known as Markarkian's Chain. At the southwestern end of the chain are two prominent elliptical galaxies, M84 (at the far southwestwern tip of the line) and M86. Following the chain eastward and northward, M86 is followed by a pair of galaxies collectively known as the Eyes Galaxies. Imagery provided by Aladin sky atlas

The arrangement of galaxies within the cluster is not random; rather they are organised into smaller groupings of which the most prominent are designated Virgo A (organised around the Virgo A galaxy) and Virgo B (around M49). One particularly clear feature of the cluster is a string of galaxies near its centre known as Markarian's Chain, running across the border between Virgo and Coma Berenices.


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