Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2005 March 16
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Markarian's Chain of Galaxies
Credit and Copyright: R. Gilbert, J. Harvey et al. (SSRO)

Explanation: Across the heart of the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies lies a striking string of galaxies known as Markarian's Chain. The chain, pictured above, is highlighted on the upper right with two large but featureless lenticular galaxies, M84 and M86, and connects to the large spiral on the lower left, M88. Prominent on the lower right but not part of Markarian's Chain is the giant elliptical galaxy M87. The home Virgo Cluster is the nearest cluster of galaxies, contains over 2000 galaxies, and has a noticeable gravitational pull on the galaxies of the Local Group of Galaxies surrounding our Milky Way Galaxy. The center of the Virgo Cluster is located about 70 million light years away toward the constellation of Virgo. At least seven galaxies in the chain appear to move coherently, although others appear to be superposed by chance.

Tomorrow's picture: snow bright

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