Fr.: galaxie M87
The dominant member of the → Virgo cluster of galaxies, which contains some 2,000 galaxies. Also known as NGC 4486, it has an → apparent visual magnitude 9.6. Discovered in 1781 by Charles Messier, this → elliptical galaxy is located 55 million → light-years away from Earth in the constellation → Virgo. M87 is the home of several thousand billion stars, a → supermassive black hole (SMBH) and a family of roughly 15,000 → globular clusters. For comparison, our → Milky Way galaxy contains only a few hundred billion stars and about 150 globular clusters. M87 is characterized by a prominent kiloparsec scale → relativistic jet emitted by the central SMBH. As gaseous material from the center of the galaxy → accretes onto the black hole, the energy released produces a stream of subatomic particles that are accelerated to velocities near the → speed of light.