Messier 86 or M86 (also designated NGC 4406) is a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Virgo. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.9 and its angular diameter is 7.5x5.5 arc-minutes. M86 lies at an estimated distance of 60 million light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 12h 26.2m, Dec= +12° 57´ which makes M86 best seen during the spring. The Messier Spring Star Chart shows the position of all Messier objects visible during that season.

The image above shows the uncropped view of M86 through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is up). A 3x enlargement of this image centered on M86 appears to the right. The Virgo Cluster is rich with galaxies and more than a dozen are captured in the top image. M84 and M86 (right and left, respectively) are in the upper right while M87 is to the lower left. Just north of M86 is the edge on spiral galaxy NGC 4402.

This lenticular galaxy was discovered by Messier in 1781. M86 lies near the center of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies and is one of four lenticular galaxies in the Messier Catalog (M84, M85, M86, and M102). Along with M84, and a number of fainter NGC-numbered galaxies, it is part of Markarian's Chain of galaxies. According to Stoyan et al. (2010), the distance of M86 is 56.7 million light years and its diameter is 147,000 light years.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M86 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M86

March 18, 1781
`Nebula without star, in Virgo, on the parallel and very near to the nebula above, No. 84: their appearances are the same, and both appear together in the same field of the telescope.'

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