The spiral galaxy M61, mistaken for a comet by Charles Messier in 1779, is an anchor tenant of the Virgo galaxy cluster, a beehive of star birth with a massive nuclear cluster and a supermassive 5-million-solar-mass black hole at its core. It is classified as a starburst galaxy with an active galactic nucleus. One of the largest members of the Virgo Cluster, an assembly of more than a thousand galaxies that, in turn, is part of the Virgo Supercluster, M61 is easily visible in amateur instruments despite its 50 million light year distance. But the galaxy’s full glory is revealed in larger instruments, like this shot captured by the European Southern Observatory in 2019.
There are about two dozen so-called hypervelocity stars known to be escaping our Milky Way galaxy, but PB 3877 is the first wide binary star found to travel at such a high speed. The results of a new study challenge the commonly accepted scenario that hypervelocity stars are accelerated by the supermassive black hole at the galactic centre.
Astronomers have discovered three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the solar system. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star.
In this huge image of part of the southern constellation of Norma, wisps of crimson gas are illuminated by rare, massive stars that have only recently ignited and are still buried deep in thick dust clouds. The vast nebula where these giants were born, known as RCW 106, is captured here in fine detail by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST), at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.