Messier 89, located in the Virgo constellation, was discovered and catalogued by Charles Messier in 1781. Messier was an astronomer who had grown tired of being mistaken for Halley’s comet after identifying a faint object in the sky. To prevent others from making the same mistake, he created a catalogue of bright deep-sky objects which could potentially be mistaken for comets. This led to the first comprehensive catalogue of astronomical objects – the Messier Catalogue – of which Messier 89 is the last giant elliptical Messier found ,and the most perfectly spherical galaxy in his catalog of 110 objects.
This huge ball of stars is made up of around 100 billion stars, each orbiting its own centre at great speed. The seemingly perfect spherical shape of Messier 89 could be just an illusion as most elliptical galaxies tend to be elongated ellipsoids. This could be due to its orientation with respect to Earth.
Messier 89 is unique in many ways. Not only does it have a much higher central mass than other elliptical galaxies – which means it is packed with stars – but it also gives off higher levels of X-ray and infrared radiation than other ellipticals. It may be due to the high number of stars or due to a supermassive black hole at its core that eats up much of the material that would otherwise be visible.
The beauty and mystery of Messier 89 has attracted much attention from astronomers over the years, but there are still many unanswered questions about this unusual galaxy. What is it made up of? Are there any planets within this sphere? What kind of environment does it have? What forces are at work within this ball of stars?