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.
The Very Large Telescope Interferometer at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has obtained the sharpest view ever of the dusty disc around an ageing star. For the first time such features can be compared to those around young stars — and they look surprisingly similar. It is even possible that a disc appearing at the end of a star’s life might also create a second generation of planets.
A new study finds that elliptical galaxies maintain a remarkably constant circular speed out to large distances from their centres, in the same way that spiral galaxies do. In these very different types of galaxies, stars and dark matter somehow conspire to redistribute themselves to produce this effect, or does modified Newtonian dynamics offer an explanation?