"The Eyes" of the Markarian Chain

Posted by BruceW
on Tuesday, July 3, 2012

NGC 4435 and 4438 have been dubbed by amateurs as "the eyes" of the Virgo cluster of galaxies.  They are part of an apparent "chain" of galaxies that cover a wide field of view - all are members of the Virgo cloud, located about 52M light-years away.  Although it looks like the distortion in the larger galaxy might be caused by the smaller galaxy to the lower right, this may be illusory.  Deep professional images taken in hydrogen-alpha light show a connection between NGC 4435 and M86, which is well outside the field of view in this image.  These two galaxies presumably passed each other at some time in the past, probably causing a major disruption in NGC 4435, the less massive of the two.  This image was captured over a 3-month period in April-June 2012 from a dark-sky site near Anza, CA.  A 10-inch SCT at f/8.7 was used in conjunction with an SBIG ST-2000XM camera for a total capture time of 8 hours.

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