Virgo Galaxy Cluster

The western part of the Virgo galaxy cluster is dominated by a couple of bright galaxies forming an "chain". This so-called "Markarian's Chain" consists of 8 bright galaxies. Starting from South-West, the ellipticals M84 and M86 are the brightest galaxies of the chain. NGC 4435 and NGC 4438 form a close pair of interacting galaxies. The Eyes Galaxy NGC 4438 is one of the most interesting galaxies in the Virgo cluster. A second pair, NGC 4461 and NGC 4468, follows in north-eastern direction. NGC 4473 and NGC 4477 (not in the image of the chain) are at the end of the chain. M 87 is located close to the chain. . It is the largest galaxy of the Virgo Cluster and also its center of gravity. The mass of this "monster" galaxy is about 2.7 trillion suns and its diameter is 130,000 light-years. It is surrounded by thousands of globular clusters; the brightest of them can be seen in the image. M 87 and the Virgo Cluster is about 50 million light-years apart. Additional to the bright objects described above many medium-sized galaxies are visible surrounding the chain. Some show structures like spiral arms or dust lanes. Many of them are small spiral or irregular shaped dwarf galaxies belonging to the Virgo cluster, some are much closer to earth and some are located far in the background. Numerous faint diffuse spots indicate remote galaxies in the background.

In the eastern part of the cluster large galaxies like M 58, M89 and M 90 and a lot of smaller NGC galaxies can be located. A wide-angle view of this area reveals hundreds of galaxies.