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NGC 4365

An elliptical galaxy that falls in the southern regions of the Virgo Cluster as seen from Earth. In fact, NGC 4365 does not belong to that cluster, but to a more distant cloud of galaxies that lies beyond the Virgo Supercluster. The galaxy measures an estimated 112,000 light years along its longest axis, a dimension comparable with the diameter of the Milky Way.

The small galaxy seen to the northeast of NGC 4365 is NGC 4366, another galaxy of elliptical form. This galaxy does not merely appear smaller than its enormous neighbour; it actually is only a fraction of the size, and in fact lies in the foreground of this image, being some ten million light years closer to the Milky Way than NGC 4365. Imagery provided by Aladin sky atlas

Unusually for an elliptical galaxy, NGC 4365 shows a series of distinct phases of star formation. Coupled with the fact that the galaxy's core rotates in a different direction to its outer stars, this is potential evidence that the galaxy has grown through merging with other galaxies over its twelve-billion-year lifespan. Even today, NGC 4365 is absorbing material from beyond its boundaries, and its gravity is in the process of pulling a string of globular clusters away from its smaller neighbour, the lenticular galaxy NGC 4342.


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