Markarian Mosaic – The Bigger Picture

Markarian Mosaic – The Bigger Picture: It’s no figure of speech, it’s just a big picture 🙂  This is a 4 panel mosaic with about 6 hours of integration per panel, 25 hours in total. Check out the high resolution version to fully appreciate this area in the sky that is scattered with hundreds of galaxies.

Markarian’s chain was named after an Armenian astronomer in the 1970s and represents a beautiful stretch of galaxies that forms part of the Virgo Cluster. Our own Local Group of galaxies (Milky Way, large and small Magellenic Clouds, M31, M32, M100, M33) is currently receding from the Virgo Cluster at a rate of about 1000 km/second. However, it is anticipated that our Local Group will eventually stop receding from the Virgo Cluster and will ultimately accelerate towards this region (gravity from the Virgo Cluster influences us even at distances of 70 million light years). M84 and M86 are the 2 large elliptical galaxies on the right (from right to left). M88 is the prominent spiral galaxy on the upper left. The most dominant galaxy in this region is M87, at the lower left of the frame. Messier 87 is a supergiant elliptical galaxy and one of the most massive galaxies in the local universe. It is notable for its large population of globular clusters—about 12,000 compared to the 150–200 orbiting the Milky Way—and its jet of energetic plasma that originates at the core and extends at least 4,900 light-years, traveling at relativistic speed. It is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky, and a popular target for both amateur and professional astronomers.

Markarian’s Chain with M88 (top left) and M87 (bottom left)

Telescope: 16″ f3.75 Dream Scope
Camera: FLI ML16803
Mount: ASA DDM85
Exposure: 25 hours (152x300s L + 3x50x300s RGB), 4 panels mosaic
Date: February – March 2019
Location: Southern Alps, France


PGC Annotations


Someone on a Dutch astronomy forum pointed out if we would be able to see the M87 jet. This relativistic jet of matter emerging from the core extends at least 5,000 light-years from the nucleus and consists of subatomic matter ejected from a supermassive black hole. At first I was looking for a big but very faint structure on a heavily stretched and inverted image. It turns out that the jet is much smaller and also much brighter than what I was expecting. I had to heavily pinch the histogram to make the jet visible inside M87’s core.

M87 jet, pointing at 2 o’clock



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