News Release Archive:

News Release 359 of 1051

August 5, 2008 09:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2008-30

Globular Clusters Tell Tale of Star Formation in Nearby Galaxy Metropolis


Image: Hubble ACS Image of Elliptical Galaxy M87

Hubble ACS Image of Elliptical Galaxy M87STScI-PRC2008-30b

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The monstrous elliptical galaxy M87 is the home of several trillion stars, a supermassive black hole, and a family of 15,000 globular star clusters.

M87 is the dominant galaxy at the center of the neighboring Virgo cluster of galaxies, which contains some 2,000 galaxies.

Amid the smooth, yellow population of older stars, the two features that stand out most in this Hubble Space Telescope image of M87 are its soft blue jet and the myriad of starlike globular clusters scattered throughout the image.

The jet is a black-hole-powered stream of material that is being ejected from the core of the galaxy. As gaseous material from the center of the galaxy accretes onto the black hole, the resultant energy released produces a fire-hose stream of subatomic particles that are accelerated to velocities near the speed of light.

Being in the center of the Virgo cluster of galaxies, M87 may have accumulated some of its globular clusters by gravitationally pulling them from nearby dwarf galaxies that seem to be devoid of globulars today.

The 120,000-light-year-diameter galaxy lies at a distance of 54 million light-years from the Sun in the spring constellation Virgo.

This image was made from data taken in 2003 and 2006 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The image is a composite of individual filtered data that cover the visible and infrared portions of the spectrum.

Object Name: M87

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Acknowledgment: P. Cote (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics) and E. Baltz (Stanford University)

Technical facts about this image:

About this Survey
Name: M87
Description: Giant Elliptical Galaxy
Position (J2000): R.A. 12h 30m 49s.42
Dec. +12° 23' 28".03
Constellation: Virgo
Distance: 54 million light-years (17 Megaparsecs)
About the Data
Science Team:

This image was created from HST data from proposal 9401: P. Cote (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria BC), J. Blakeslee (Dominion Astrophysical Observatory/Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics and Washington State University), L. Ferrarese (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria, BC), A. Jordan (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), S. Mei (Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees), D. Merritt (Rochester Institute of Technology), M. Milosavljevic (California Institute of Technology), J. Tonry (University of Hawaii), E. Peng (Peking University, Beijing), and M. West (European Southern Observatory, Chile).

HST data also used from proposal 10543: E. Baltz (Stanford University), T. Lauer (NOAO/AURA), A. Crotts (Columbia University), A. Gould (Ohio State University Research Foundation), P. Gondolo (University of Utah), M. Shara (American Museum of Natural History), J. Silk (University of Oxford), S. Zepf (Michigan State University), and D. Zurek (American Museum of Natural History).

Instrument: ACS/WFC
Filters: F475W (SDSS g), F606W (V), F814W (I)
Exposure Date(s): December 2002 - December 2003, January - March 2006
About this Release
Release Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Release Date: August 5, 2008


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