Deep image of M87, taken with the 3.9-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope, by David Malin. As the scale bar indicates, the halo of this giant galaxy extends far over the 30 arc min diameter of the full moon; this corresponds to a linear extent of more than half a million lightyears, taking into account M87's distance of about 60 million lightyears. The faintest outer parts apparently extend beyond this image.
The inner galaxy M87, which is usually observed or photographed, is completely outburned in the dark center of the galaxy in this image. Contrary to the inner part, the outer regions of M87 are quite elongated. The outermost, fainter halo is of irregular shape, very probably distorted by gravitational interaction of huge M87 with its neighbor galaxies in the Virgo Cluster. Fine detail can be recognized in the faint halo on closer investigation of this image. Some of them probably represent remainders of former galaxies which have been disrupted in closer encounters in the past, and are now in process to be incorporated in, or cannibalised by, giant M87.
Same image as positive; how M87 would look like with very sensitive eyes.
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Last Modification: March 1, 2001