M87 is a giant elliptical galaxy with a total mass more than a million million times that of the Sun that lies at the centre of the Virgo Cluster about 50 million light-years away. New observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope have revealed the full extent of the galaxy’s cannibalistic nature.
In the brightest region of this glowing nebula called RCW 34, gas is heated dramatically by young stars and expands through the surrounding cooler gas, bursting outwards into the vacuum like the contents of an uncorked champagne bottle. But RCW 34 has more to offer than a few bubbles; there seem to have been multiple episodes of star formation within the same cloud.
Observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered a new class of “dark” globular star clusters around the giant galaxy Centaurus A. These mysterious objects look similar to normal clusters, but contain much more mass and may either harbour unexpected amounts of dark matter, or contain massive black holes — neither of which was expected nor is understood.