Jim's Corner Blog

Markarian’s Chain

Markarian’s Chain is a group of bright galaxies spread out in a string-like fashion near the center of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. It contains about 12  bright galaxies and many small faint ones.  Figs. 6.6 and 6.7  show the main part of Markarians chain with the galaxy M84 missing and just below the field of view.  Member galaxies include M84, M86, NGC 4477, NGC 4473, NGC 4461, NGC 4458, NGC 4438 and NGC 4435.  Near the center of the image are two interesting galaxies often referred to as the “eyes”.  NGC 4438 is the larger of the two with the other named NGC 4435. Astronomers believe that NGC 4438’s odd shape is the result of a merger between two galaxies. It is also thought that these two galaxies passed very close to each other millions of years ago. The resulting flyby stripped many of the stars from NGC 4435 leaving the oval core. Within photo,  there are over 100 galaxies easily seen. 

Markarian’s Chain (Jon Talbot)

Markarian’s Chain
Alternate: Includes M84, M86, M88, M89, M90, NGC 4478
RA 12h 27 m
Dec +13º 10′
Magnitude multiple values

Markarian’s Chain is named after Benjamin E. Markarian, an Armenian astronomer, active in the mid-20th century.  In addition to his identification of the Markarian’s Chain, he is also noted for his special method for identifying galaxies with ultra-violet excess.  During the period of 1965-1980, the Byurakan Observatory conducted a spectral sky survey using Markarian’s method . Markarian published a list of 1500 galaxies with ultra-violet excess, galaxies now known as Markarian galaxies.

Perhaps the richest of Cosmic Duets, the 7 main bright galaxies can be seen with a 4” aperture telescope.  However, to view the dimmer galaxies of Markarian’s Chain, an 8” or larger telescope will bring the true extent of the rich collection of galaxies this region has to offer.  Low or medium-low magnification eyepieces with 60º or greater AFOV is all that is required.