- Date: Dec 2016/Jan 2017
- Location: Prazzo, Italy
- Camera: QSI 583 WS
- Optics: Takahashi FSQ106 EDXIII
- Mount: 10 Micron GM 2000 QCI
- Exposure: LRGB 720min;90min;90min;90min
This stunning image made by Massimo Tosco from Italy shows a chain of over a dozen of galaxies that collectively hold several trillion stars. It is called Markarian’s Chain after the Armenian astrophysicist who discovered the galaxies move together through space, this collection is some 50 million light years away in the massive Virgo Cluster, the closest cluster of galaxies to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Markarian’s Chain of Galaxies appears to form an arc and at least seven of the members of the chain share a common motion.
Besides the Chain, this image captures hundreds of galaxies, the majority of which are Virgo Cluster members. The three galaxies that stand out most are three huge lenticular galaxies catalogued by Messier. M84 is the large galaxy at the bottom centre, M86 is tight above it and M87 is towards the upper left corner of the image. Each of these huge galaxies alone is already estimated to have 400 billion stars or more.
The two seemingly interacting galaxies near the centre of the image are NGC 4438 and 4435. NGC 4438, the larger galaxy, is thought to have once been a spiral galaxy that was strongly deformed by collisions in the relatively recent past. It has a highly distorted disk and long tidal tails. A lane of obscuring dust is visible just below its weak nucleus and young stars are visible to the left of its center.
NGC 4435 is a compact barred lenticular galaxy with a bright core of more than 50% of its diameter, and has a relatively young stellar population on its central regions (age of 190 million years). It seems to be almost devoid of gas and dust, but does have a very faint extension in the opposite direction of NGC 4438. It appears completely free of any tidal disturbances.
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