The Lost Galaxy NGC 4535 Seen Through ESO Very Large Telescope

First Posted: Mar 27, 2013 04:19 PM EDT

The ESO 8.2-meter Very Large Telescope made this amazing image of "the lost galaxy" NGC 4535, which is one of the largest galaxies in the massive Virgo Cluster. This mega cluster consists of as many as 2000 galaxies and is about 50 million light-years away. Although the Virgo Cluster is not much larger in diameter than the Local Group — the galaxy cluster to which the Milky Way belongs — it contains almost fifty times as many galaxies.

Even though the "lost" galaxy is so far away, it is big and bright enough to be seen through smaller amateur telescopes and was first observed by William Herschel in 1785. It can be found in the constellation of Virgo (The Maiden), although only a super telescope like the ESO's VLT with its FORS1 instrument will deliver this kind of clear image and the beautiful background full of many distant faint galaxies.

When seen through a smaller telescope, NGC 4535 has a hazy, ghostly appearance, which inspired the prominent amateur astronomer Leland S. Copeland to name it “The Lost Galaxy” in the 1950s.

Its almost circular appearance shows that we observe it nearly face-on. In the center of the galaxy is a well-defined bar structure with dust lanes that curve sharply before the spiral arms break from the ends of the bar. The bluish colour of the spiral arms points to the presence of a large number of hot young stars. In the center, however, older and cooler stars give the bulge of the galaxy a yellower appearance.

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