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A Portrait of a Beauty
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Name: Messier 61, NGC 4303
Description: Spiral Galaxy
Position (J2000): RA 12h 2m1 57.51s Dec 4° 28' 25.12"
Constellation: Virgo
Distance: 50 million light years
Visual magnitude: 10.18
Angular size: 6.5 × 5.8 arcmin
Field of view: 6.11 x 6.24 arcminutes
Orientation: North is -0.0° left of vertical
Image Credit: ESO
Release date: January 7, 2019

Full Image:  G1901   Closeup:  G1417
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Nuzzled in the chest of the constellation Virgo (the Virgin) lies a beautiful cosmic gem - the galaxy Messier 61. This glittering spiral galaxy is aligned face-on towards Earth, thus presenting us with a breathtaking view of its structure. The gas and dust of the intricate spiral arms are studded with billions of stars. This galaxy is a bustling hub of activity with a rapid rate of star formation, and both a massive nuclear star cluster and a supermassive black hole buried at its heart.

Messier 61 is one of the largest members of the Virgo Cluster, which is made up of more than a thousand galaxies, and is itself at the center of the Virgo Supercluster - to which our Milky Way also belongs. This dazzling beauty was first discovered on May 5, 1779 by Barnaba Oriani, and it has been capturing astronomers' interest ever since. Set against a dark sky littered with galaxies, this image shows the awe-inspiring M61 in its full glory even at its distance of over 50 million light-years.