Messier 84 – the NGC Elliptical Galaxy

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image captures the galaxy Messier 84 — also known as NGC 4374 — an object from the Messier catalogue, published in its final version in 1781 by Charles Messier. This elliptical galaxy was discovered in March 1781 and lies about 60 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin). The galaxy is part of the very heavily populated centre of the Virgo Cluster, a cluster which consists of more than 1000 galaxies. This image does not show the whole galaxy but only its very interesting centre, and is likely to be the best image of the region ever captured. Previous observations using Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) revealed a supermassive black hole in the centre of Messier 84. Astronomers found the supermassive black hole by mapping the motion of the gas and the stars which are caught in its grip. Next to its interesting centre Messier 84 is also known for its supernovae. Two supernovae have been observed within the galaxy. The first, SN1957 was discovered in 1957 and another, called SN1991bg, was discovered in 1991. Credit: NASA/ESA/HST

Welcome back to Messier Monday! Today, we continue in our tribute to our dear friend, Tammy Plotner, by looking at the elliptical (lenticular) galaxy known as Messier 84!

During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noticed the presence of several “nebulous objects”  while surveying the night sky. Originally mistaking these objects for comets, he began to catalog them so that others would not make the same mistake. Today, the resulting list (known as the Messier Catalog) includes over 100 objects and is one of the most influential catalogs of Deep Space Objects.

One of these objects is known as Messier 84, an elliptical (or lenticular) galaxy located about 54.9 million light years from Earth. This galaxy is situated in the inner core of the heavily populated Virgo Cluster and has two jets of matter shooting out of its center. It also has a rapidly rotating disk of gas and stars that are indicative of a supermassive black hole of 1.5 billion Solar masses at its center.

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