Markarian's Chain

The Markarian Chain is an elongated group that forms part of the Virgo galaxy cluster. From our perspective, they appear to be lined up on a gentle curve.

Markarian Chain
Markarian Chain: The Eyes NGC 4435/4438 + M 84/86 + 100 more galaxies. See image with labels; Schmidt-Newton 250 mm f/4, Canon EOS 20Da 1600 ISO; RGB 151 min; Obwalden; © 2018 Eduard von Bergen
Markarian Chain
Markarian Chain: With M 87, the center of the Virgo cluster (bottom left); TS Triplet APO 90, Reducer Photoline 0.79 (490mm / f5.44), SBIG ST-8300; 13L x 600sec 1×1, 13R, 15G, 12B 2×2 x 600sec; Berner Oberland; © 2018 Bernhard Blank, Dragan Mihajlovic

History

On May 5, 1779, the German astronomer Johan Gottfried Köhler was the first to encounter the two brightest galaxies, which became known as M 84 and M 86 after the independent discovery by Charles Messier on March 18, 1781. Messier wrote about M 84: «Nebula without a star, in the virgin; the center is a little brilliant, surrounded by a light nebulosity: the brightness and appearance are somewhat reminiscent of that of No. 59 and No. 60.» About M 86 he wrote: «Nebulae without a star, in the Virgo, on the parallel and right next to the previous nebula No. 84. They look alike and are both visible in the same field of view of the telescope.» [281]

About 23 arc minutes east of M 86 is the pair of galaxies NGC 4435 and NGC 4438, also known as «The Eyes» or «Eyes Galaxies». They were discovered on April 8, 1784 by Wilhelm Herschel. Halton Arp listed these two closely related galaxies as No. 120 in his 1966 Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. [199]

Physical Properties

NGC 4438 + M 86
NGC 4438 + M 86: Past collision of two galaxies. Image taken with the Mayall 4m telescope at Kitt Peak [286]

Both galaxies M 84 and M 86 are elliptical galaxies of the morphological type E-E/S0. M 84 is a Seyfert 2 galaxy and is therefore very active. Distance measurements of the two galaxies range from 16.8 Mpc to 19.2 Mpc (cs. 55 to 62 million light years). [145]

In the pair of galaxies «The Eyes» (NGC 4435 and NGC 4438) the deformation of NGC 4438 (the larger of the two galaxies) is distinctive. It probably does not go back to NGC 4435, but to an early collision with M 86, which must have hit it with great force. Long-term images show filaments of ionized hydrogen gas between the two galaxies. [286] See Fig. 2.

«Catalogue of Principal Galaxies (PGC)», Paturel et al. 1989 [144]
NameRA [hms]Dec [dms]mTypeDim [']Btot [mag]HRV [km/s]PA [°]
NGC 4374, M 8412 25 03.6+12 53 14E6.7 x 6.010.2956135
NGC 4406, M 8612 26 11.7+12 56 49E M9.8 x 6.39.9-248130
NGC 443512 27 40.5+13 04 47LB M3.0 x 2.211.878113
NGC 443812 27 45.4+13 00 35S M8.5 x 3.010.96427
NGC 445812 28 57.7+13 14 35E1.6 x 1.512.8668
NGC 446112 29 02.9+13 11 08LB3.4 x 1.412.019189
NGC 447312 29 48.7+13 25 49E4.2 x 2.611.22237100
NGC 447712 30 02.4+13 38 11LB3.7 x 3.311.4134815

Further Galaxies in the Area

The following galaxies shown on the location map do not officially belong to the Markarian chain, but just happen to be in roughly the same viewing direction: NGC 4387, NGC 4388, NGC 4413, NGC 4479, NGC 4402, NGC 4425.

«Catalogue of Principal Galaxies (PGC)», Paturel et al. 1989 [144]
NameRA [hms]Dec [dms]mTypeDim [']Btot [mag]HRV [km/s]PA [°]
NGC 438712 25 41.7+12 48 41E1.7 x 1.113.0561140
NGC 438812 25 46.9+12 39 41S5.6 x 1.511.8251892
NGC 440212 26 07.8+13 06 45S3.6 x 1.112.623690
NGC 441312 26 31.8+12 36 35SBR2.3 x 1.412.79760
NGC 442512 27 13.3+12 44 09LB2.8 x 1.012.8188327
NGC 447912 30 18.5+13 34 41LB1.6 x 1.313.5822

Finder Chart

The Markarian chain is located in the constellation Virgo. Extend the imaginary line from the stars Chertan (θ Leonis) to Denebola (β Leonis) by the same amount. The two galaxies M 84 and M 86 are located there. The chain continues in a slight arc to the north and to the east. It's easy to get lost in the Virgo Cluster for all the galaxies. The best observation time is February to June.

Chart M 84, M 86
Chart created using SkySafari 6 Pro and STScI Digitized Sky Survey. [149, 160]

References

144Catalogue of Principal Galaxies (PGC); Paturel G., Fouque P., Bottinelli L., Gouguenheim L.; Astron. Astrophys. Suppl. Ser. 80, 299 (1989); cdsarc.unistra.fr/viz-bin/cat/VII/119 (2021-02-18)
145SIMBAD astronomical database; simbad.u-strasbg.fr/simbad
149SkySafari 6 Pro, Simulation Curriculum; skysafariastronomy.com
160The STScI Digitized Sky Survey; archive.stsci.edu/cgi-bin/dss_form
199Atlas Of Peculiar Galaxies, Halton Arp; ned.ipac.caltech.edu/level5/Arp/Arp_contents.html (2020-12-28)
281«Catalogue Nébuleuses et des Amas D'Étoiles» Observées à Paris, par M. Messier, à l'Observatoire de la Marine, hôtel de Clugni, rue des Mathurins. «Connoissance des temps ou connoissance des mouvements célestes, pour l'année bissextile 1784 » Page 227; gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6514280n/f235 (2021-02-21)
286Big Galaxy Collisions Can Stunt Star Formation; noirlab.edu/public/news/noao0808 (2021-03-01)