Deep images of the heart of the Virgo Cluster near M84 and M86


Negative and positive reproduction of a very deep exposure of the M84/M86 region of the Virgo Cluster. While on the negative some fainter detail can be recognized easier, the positive resembles more the visual impression in a hypothetical high-sensitivity instrument. Note how much larger the galaxies appear in this image than in less deep images of this region (e.g., those in our collection). You may also compare this image side by side with a conventional one.

Most of the galaxies in this image, in particular M86, show distortions in their fainter outskirts, very probably due to gravitational interaction with spatially neighboring galaxies.

On deep images like this one, the outskirts of M84 and M86 seem to overlap; the angular distance between their centers of about 16.5 arc min corresponds to a projected distance of only roughly 300,000 light years. This, however, is probably a perspectivic effect, as otherwise their outlayers would be much more distorted as they are: There is probably some radial distance, or distance difference from us, between these two galaxies; it is not known which one is a bit closer to, and which a bit farther away from us.

Above images are copyrighted and may be used for private purpose only. For any other kind of use, including internet mirroring and storing on CD-ROM, please contact the Photo Permissions Department (photo at of the Anglo Australian Observatory.

For technical info on deep astrophotography, look at David Malin's webpage on special photographic techniques.

Hartmut Frommert
Christine Kronberg

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Last Modification: 26 Apr 1998