|Galaxy Group in the Virgo Cluster with NGC 4461 in the Center|
Image by Michael Petrasko and Muir Evenden
This type of data gathering could be a fun and interesting exercise for students participating in astronomy education projects. Students could be tasked with identifying the designations and galaxy types in the image field utilizing astronomy software and/or star atlases as I did.
The galaxies caught in my image are located in the Virgo Cluster. This cluster of galaxies whose center are about 53.8 light-years away in the constellation Virgo. Comprising approximately 1300 (and possibly up to 2000) member galaxies, the cluster forms the heart of the larger Virgo Supercluster, of which the Local Group is an outlying member.
Many of the brighter galaxies in this cluster, including the giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87, were discovered in the late 1770's and early 1780's and subsequently included in Charles Messier's catalogue of non-cometary fuzzy objects. Described by Messier as nebula without stars, their true nature was not recognized until the 1920s.
The cluster subtends a maximum arc of approximately 8 degrees centered in the constellation Virgo. Many of the member galaxies of the cluster are visible with a small telescope. Its brightest member is the elliptical galaxy Messier 49; however its most famous member is the also elliptical galaxy Messier 87, which unlike the former is located in the center of the cluster.