Markarian’s Chain

Markarian’s Chain is a visually striking alignment of galaxies in the Virgo constellation, showcasing a series of gravitationally interacting galaxies, such as Messier 84 and Messier 86. It reaches its annual culmination at astronomical midnight around mid April.

Markarian’s Chain is a visually captivating arrangement of galaxies located in the Virgo Cluster, situated about 54 million light-years away in the Virgo constellation. It is named after the Armenian astronomer Benjamin Markarian, who extensively studied and cataloged these galaxies. This celestial chain showcases a series of galaxies engaged in gravitational interactions, leading to distinctive distortions and tidal tails. Notable members of Markarian’s Chain include Messier 84, Messier 86, and several other galaxies within this intriguing cosmic alignment.

Location and neighborhood.

Markarian’s Chain is located in the constellation Virgo. To observe this celestial arrangement in the night sky, one should look towards the southern part of the Virgo constellation.

The Markarian's Chain
The Markarian’s Chain – Messier Objects on this picture are: M88, M84, M86 and the Virgo-Galaxy M87.

The Virgo Cluster, which includes Markarian’s Chain, is best visible during the spring months in the Northern Hemisphere. During this time, the Virgo constellation rises in the eastern sky and is well-placed for observation in the late evening and throughout the night.

Unique facts

  • Markarian’s Chain is a striking example of gravitational interactions among galaxies. The visible distortions and tidal tails in the galaxies within the chain are a result of the gravitational forces at play as these galaxies interact with each other.
  • he chain is named after Benjamin Markarian, an Armenian astrophysicist who extensively studied and cataloged these galaxies in the 1960s. His work focused on identifying galaxies with excessive ultraviolet radiation, which led to the discovery and cataloging of many objects, including those in the chain.
  • Some of the notable galaxies in Markarian’s Chain include Messier 84 (M84) and Messier 86 (M86). These galaxies are large elliptical galaxies and serve as prominent members within the chain, contributing to its overall visual appeal.
  • Markarian’s Chain is a subset of the Virgo Cluster, one of the closest galaxy clusters to the Milky Way. The Virgo Cluster is rich in galaxies, and Markarian’s Chain provides valuable insights into the dynamics of galaxies within such dense cosmic environments.

Brightness and size

The brightness of galaxies within the Virgo Cluster, including those in Markarian’s Chain, varies widely. Galaxies can range from bright elliptical galaxies to fainter spiral galaxies.

The Virgo Cluster is located at a distance of approximately 54 million light-years from Earth. Markarian’s Chain is a subset of this cluster, so the galaxies within it share a similar distance.

Galaxies vary significantly in size, and their dimensions are typically measured in thousands to hundreds of thousands of light-years. Elliptical galaxies, which are common in galaxy clusters, tend to be larger than spiral galaxies.