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Markarian's Chain - A Chain of Galaxies Found in Virgo

Updated: May 18, 2023

Shortly after imaging the Iris Nebula from a Bortle 2 zone in California, I decided to once again make the 2-hour drive to enjoy the clear dark sky of the Mojave National Preserve.

Software Bisque Paramount MyT Mount and Orion Reflector Astrograph
Our equipment for the night

Using the same telescope and the same camera as the previous session, I this time made the decision to image a part of the sky that Dalia and I always wanted to capture but never had the chance: Markarian's Chain.

We also used our Software Paramount MyT mount. We plan on releasing our full review of this expensive mount soon on both our website and YouTube.

Markarian’s Chain is a stretch of more than eight galaxies located in the heart of the famous Virgo Cluster. Astrophysicist Benjamin Markarian named it after discovering that at least seven of them appeared to be moving coherently.

One thing I really wanted to do is to also include Messier 87 in the frame.

This is no easy feat as it is pretty far from the actual chain of galaxies. It's impossible to frame the galaxy and the chain together with our ASI 1600MM or ASI 071MC, we were able to get it just right using our first full-frame camera, the QHY 128C.

We did have to crop out a significant portion of the image (you can see what the single shots looked like later in this post) but we are glad we could end up with the chain and M87 together in one frame.

Here is our image of Markarian's Chain, 4 hours in total taken from a Bortle 2 zone. You can see M87 in the bottom left corner.

Markarian's Chain and M87 using the QHY128C

Markarian's Chain Astrophotography - QHY128C and Orion 8" Astrograph


Camera: QHY128C

Guiding: N/A (unguided)

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 4 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Filters: None

Gain: 3200

How to Find Markarian's Chain

How to find Markarian's Chain in Virgo in the night sky, map

The brightest members of Markarian’s Chain can be seen through binoculars and small telescopes, but you will need a higher-power telescope to be able to see the fainter galaxies.

The Virgo cluster is one of the best sights seen with binoculars in the night sky during Spring. From a dark site, you will be able to not only see the members of the chain but also some bright galaxies around, like Messier 87!

Markarian’s Chain can be found on the outer edge of the Virgo constellation, it lies right between the stars Denebola, in Leo, and Vindemiatrix, in Virgo. Draw an imaginary line between those two bright stars and at the center is your target!

Cool Facts

  • Named after Armenian astrophysicist Benjamin Markarian

  • Stretches over a distance of 20 full moons

  • Contains several Messier Objects

Processing of Markarian's Chain

Markarian's Chain was not easy to process. Some galaxies are very bright while others are super dim! You also have a random mix of spiral and elliptical galaxies so you really need to be careful when enhancing the detail (using HDR Multiscale Transformation for example) or you might introduce some weird shapes on the elliptical objects. I believe I went a little too crazy on that and I know that a couple of them look a little bit off.

On top of that, we still haven't figured out our back focus issue, and the edges look terrible. This is why we had no choice but to crop out as much of the edges as possible while still trying to keep M87 in there and Markarian's Chain centered. We WILL make sure to fix this issue before our next imaging session.

Below you can see both a Single 3-minute shot of Markarian's Chain and what the results of 4 hours of data look like when stacked before processing. Use the arrow to compare the two!

The most famous part of Markarian's Chain is the pair of galaxies NGC 4435 and NGC 4438, often nicknamed "Markarian's Eyes" or simply "The Eyes".

We really wanted to reveal as much detail in these two galaxies as possible. Both are spiral galaxies and so do not look like big blurry balls of light like most other objects in the chain.

We'd love to one day revisit these two worlds with a very large telescope!

Process your images exactly the way we do with our PixInsight Processing Guide.

Final Thoughts

Markarian's Chain is a fantastic target for almost any type of instrument and camera. It is large enough to be photographed with small to medium size telescopes, and you can even capture it with just a DSLR camera and a telephoto lens!

Bringing out detail in each of the objects is a little challenging, but the final image will look impressive no matter what. There are also dozens of tiny galaxies all around!

Zoom on M84, M86, and M87 from our full image

We are happy to be able to add the 3 Messier objects above to our own catalog all at once! Want to see how we're doing in our mission to capture all Messier objects? You can keep track of our progress by taking a look at our Gallery tab.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter





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1 commentaire

28 mai 2023

Excellent astrophotography! I just learned about Markarian's Chain tonight, what a wonderful tribute. I especially (like most gob-smacked observers) was floored by the image of Markarian's Eyes. I could get lost there, there seems to be much going on in your particularly pleasant image. Thank you very much!

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