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Fun with Markarian's Chain

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#1 MikeBOKC


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Posted 14 May 2013 - 05:55 PM

Last Saturday at the club dark site I spent some time cruising through Markarian's Chain, the string of galaxies in the Virgo cluster that includes the bright ellipticals M84 and M86, plua a half-dozen NGC galaxies, all in the 9-12 magnitude range. It occurred to me that this assembly of deep sky gems is not that deep or dim that it cannot be targeted by newcomers to the hobby, and that this time of year is a great time to go exploring there.

M84 and M86 are visible under reasonable dark skies even in a decent finderscope. The rest of the chain is accessible to scopes in the 8 inch aperture range and up, even in some six inch instruments under decent conditions. Unlike the more elusive targets like the Horsehead or Pease 1, Markarian's chain is fairly easy to find and observe. With a go to scope just select M86 and then pan around the area. Using star charts the whole assembly is fairly easy to locate from Denebola. It can be a most enjoyable excursion for veteran observers and novices alike, and it's a terrific way for newbies to get accustomed to techniques like the use of averted vision and to experiment with different powers on DSOs, without the sometimes disappointing experience of trying to visualize some of the really faint fuzzies. Markarian's ranks for me right there with the M81-82 pairing, M104 and M51 as among the most accessible galaxy views available to eyeball astronomers, and it ought to be on everyone's list as a spring and summer target.

#2 GlennLeDrew


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Posted 14 May 2013 - 09:13 PM

I enjoy a nice view of the Chain with my home-made 20.8X60 bino and its huge 4.7 degree field. (To illustrate what can be seen with such humble gear, the needle of edge-on galaxy NGC 4565 is readily discerned.) At the west end of the Chain, just south of M84/86, galaxy NGC 4388 is not difficult.

#3 Tony Flanders

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 05:06 AM

Markarian's Chain is magnificent, unique. Nowhere else are so many big, bright galaxies so densely packed -- not even close.

Your statements about visibility do require reasonably dark skies, however. This is not a showpiece object from a bright suburb.

#4 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 12:21 PM

I scanned the length of Markarian's Chain a number of times with my 15" f/4.5 TT/Classic Dob and a 20mm Explore Scientific 100° WP Eyepiece during the Texas Star Party last week. I also observed many other galaxies in Virgo and Coma Berenices, including the grand-design spiral galaxy M100.

Here's an image of M100 that I recently received from the Bradford Robotic Telescope.

Dave Mitsky

14" f/11 Celestron C14 SCT working at f/5.3
FLI MicroLine CCD camera
110 seconds
Bradford Robotic Telescope
Tenerife, the Canary Islands

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#5 BillFerris



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Posted 15 May 2013 - 02:26 PM

As an FYI, here's a direct link to the 1961 ApJ article in which B. E. Markarian reported his hypothesis that NGC's 4374 (M84), 4406 (M86), 4435, 4438, 4458, 4461, 4473 and 4477 are a physical system of galaxies forming a chain in the Virgo cluster: Physical Chain of Galaxies in the Virgo Cluster and Its Dynamic Instability.

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#6 ensign


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Posted 22 May 2013 - 09:50 AM

A common complaint I hear from people observing galaxies in Virgo is that they "get lost." Markarian's chain has been something of an anchor for me when trying to navigate through the galaxy cluster in that I can start by aiming my telescope dead center between Denebola in Leo and Vindemiatrix in Virgo.

It's also a good barometer of sky conditions. Sue French, in a an article on Markarian's chain made reference to a "face" (M84 and M86 are the eyes in the face). If I can see the "nose" (NGC4387) and the "mouth" (4388) it's a pretty good night. If the "eyebrow" (4402) is present, even better.

There is also a "T" shaped asterism Northwest of Markarian's chain in which M98,99 and 100 figure prominently and M58,59,60 and 89 a bit South and almost directly East of Markarian's Chain. There's an arrow-shaped asterism that points directly at M58.

#7 jrbarnett


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Posted 22 May 2013 - 10:16 AM

Says Beniamin to Mike: "Quit pulling my chain." :grin:

- Jim

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