MAX-PLANCK-INSTITUT FUR EXTRATERRESTRISCHE PHYSIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MAX-PLANCK-INSTITUT FUR EXTRATERRESTRISCHE PHYSIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
X-ray image taken by the ROSAT astronomical satellite of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 (NGC 4486, at centre) and the elliptical galaxy M86 (top right). The two galaxies are members of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. This is the nearest major cluster (50 million light years) to our Local Group; it is formed by about 1000 members spread over an area 10 million light years wide. A black hole of 2.6 billion solar masses may lie in the core of M87 pulling all the stars towards the centre. The colour code runs from red for the brightest areas declining through yellow, green and blue for the dimmest regions.
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