The Sombrero Galaxy and a Swarm of Globular Clusters

The Sombrero galaxy, or Messier 104, is a giant Sa type disk galaxy viewed from just above its equatorial plane and outlined by a prominent dark rim of obscuring dust. The central bulge is unusually bright and extended, and orbiting the galaxy is one of the largest known populations of globular clusters, containing up to 1900 members. In comparison our own Milky Way galaxy has only around 150-200 such clusters. Nearby prime examples of these are Omega Centauri, Messier 4 and NGC6752. 

Some of the Sombrero’s globulars are very large and one is classified as a separate Ultra Compact Dwarf galaxy, SUCD1, the closest known example of such an object. It is not known how the Sombrero amassed such a large number of globular clusters. This is normally a more typical feature of large elliptical galaxies. For example up to 12,000 globular clusters are orbiting the giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87.

The Sombrero Galaxy also contains a supermassive black hole of one billion solar masses - one of the most massive black holes among nearby galaxies.
The galaxy lies some 30 million light years away in the direction of the constellation Virgo.

Credit: Rolf Olsen

What better way to kick off this blog with one of the most popular images from  Hubble Space Telescope and my personal favorite galaxy, The Sombrero Galaxy (M104), one of the largest galaxies in the Virgo Supercluster. This particular photo is in infrared and brilliantly captures the dark band of dust around the galaxy.

M104 spans about 50,000 light years across, half of our own galaxy and is about 28 million light years away. If you have a small telescope and are looking toward the constellation, Virgo, you can probably glimpse a view of it!

image credit: R.Kennicutt (Spitzer Space Telescope) and NASA’s Hubble.


The SOMBRERO GALAXY is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the Virgo constellation. It is located 28 million light years from Earth.

It has a very bright nucleus and an unusually large bulge. The nucleus of a galaxy is located in the center, and the bulge is the “halo” of material/stars that are found around the nucleus. The shape of the bulge and the nucleus give the appearance of a sombrero.

There is a supermassive black hole located in the nucleus of this galaxy. Looking at the measured nearby galaxies, the Sombrero Galaxy has the largest black hole at its center. It is said that the mass of the black hole is 1 billion times the mass of the Sun.

Got any questions/facts about the Sombrero Galaxy? Send me a message and we can talk about it! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s galaxy!