the spring months, the night skies turn to a galactic
festival. A veritable parade of galaxies from
Ursa Major to Virgo stretches across the northern hemisphere
sky. One of the most popular "clusters"
of galaxies is in the constellation Virgo, the heart
of which is known as the "Markarian's Chain"
of galaxies. The chain, named after an Armenian
astronomer in the 1970s, consists of giant elliptical
galaxies M84 and M86 on the right side and stretches
up to the spiral galaxy M88 near the top. Other
major galaxies in the image include the huge elliptical
M87 at bottom; M89 and M90 at bottom left; and M91 and
NGC 4571 at upper left. Of note is the galactic
jet streaming out from M89.
Virgo cluster consists of over 2000 known galaxies,
which collectively impact our own Local Galaxy Group.
The image above, shows no fewer than a 100 of
these galaxies, or perhaps more. How many can
a star chart showing the region, click <here>.
Star Party, 2006, near Ft. Davis, TX
Scope/Mount: Tak FSQ-106 and Paramount ME
Camera: SBIG STL-11000 astro
Exposure Info: LRGB
image - 100:20:15:20 minutes (10 minute subexposures
unbinned for luminance; 5 minute subexposure binned for RGB)
in CCDSoft. Calibration,
Registration, DDP, and color combine in CCDStack. Color balance, levels/curves, sharpening, and
noise removal (Astronomy Tools/Pro Digital Software) in Photoshop CS.
Dark TSP skies, but not quite as transparent as I've seen
it there. Seeing around 3 to 3.5 arc seconds...good enough
for wide field refractors but not for long focal length instruments.
The Markarian Chain
Three prominent Messier galaxies
can be seen in this shot, M84, M86, and M87, all of which are massive,
elliptical galaxies. The rest of the galaxies are part
of a cluster of galaxies in Virgo. Most impressive is the
chain of galaxies known as Markarian's chain. The chain begins
at M84, at the bottom of this image, and curving upwards to the
right. How many galaxies are here? Perhaps hundreds
and thousands. No fewer than thirty are shown in this image.
If it's fuzzy, it's a galaxy!
Location: Texas Star Party 2004
near Fort Davis, Texas
Date and Time: May 16, 2003
FSQ-106 @ f/5 on Tak NJP mount
Camera: SBIG STL-6303E
NABG with integrated filter wheel
Exposure Info: Grayscale,
clear luminance, 6 x 10 minutes
Processing Information: Dark
frame calibration, deblooming, registration and Sigma combine in
MaxIm DL 4. Digital development in MaxIm DL 4. Levels and
curves in Photoshop CS.
The Virgo Galaxy Cluster
Anything that is not round
is a galaxy! I've counted no fewer than 20 galaxies in this
photo. The Virgo area has the largest concentration of galaxies
reachable by amateur telescopes. Shown here is the heart of
the Virgo cluster known as the Markarian Chain spanning from
M88 at the upper left of the picture to M84 in the center.
Location: Texas Star Party 2003
near Fort Davis, Texas
Date and Time: May 2, 2003 @ 11:45 PM
Equipment: 420mm @ f4 (300mm Nikkor
ED lens with TC14B teleconverter) guided with Meade 208xt
Single 45 minute exposure
Kodak E200 slide film pushed one stop to ISO 320
Processing Information: Image
is slightly cropped with a levels adjustment and contrast increase.
Slight unsharp mask applied.
Exposure Notes: For a 45 minute exposure
at f4, this shot didn't achieve the depth that I hoped for, especially
considering that I gave the film a one stop push. The lack
of blue response with the E200 emulsion is obvious here. In
particular, the ellipical galaxies M84, M86, and M87 should
be much more saturated and detailed.
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