Markarian Chain of Galaxies

Our galaxy is part of a group of galaxies that includes Andromeda, Pinwheel and about 80 other galaxies. This group is called ‘Local Group of Galaxies’.

Neighboring to our group is another group of galaxies known as Virgo Cluster, which is roughly about 70 million light years away. This Cluster is rather large and contains over 2000 galaxies, and has a noticeable gravitational pull on the galaxies of the Local Group.

Across the heart of the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies lies a striking string of galaxies known as Markarian’s Chain. The two biggest galaxies in the chain are on the right of this picture. These are two large but featureless lenticular galaxies, M84 (located 60 million LY away) and M86 (farthest right, located 52 million LY away). Lenticular galaxies are old galaxies that have no star formation and you don’t see much of a spiral arms as there is not much dust.

Just to their left is a pair of interacting galaxies known as The Eyes – NGC4435 & NGC4438. These are also located 52 million LY away and therefore are neighbors to M86. They look like eyes when seeing through a normal telescope as the bluish extension on one of those galaxies is too dim and you only see the yellowish core.

At least seven galaxies in the chain appear to move coherently, although others appear to be superposed by chance (for example M84 is about 8 LY away from M86 & the Eyes).

I had to take 4 different panels and merge them together using the Mosaic tool of Maxim DL. Merging multiple panels can be a big challenge when merging photos of each of the 3 colors, so it was very tough to get it right. And I know it is not right…

For each panel, I took 13 images of 20 minutes each and 7 images of each color of 10 minutes each. Thus each panel was shot for 470 minutes and for 4 panels, it comes to 31 hours 20 minutes!

Leave a Reply