This is a small part of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies known as Markarian's
Chain. The chain is named after B. E. Markarian, an Armenian
Astrophysicist who discovered that many of these galaxies exhibit common
motion. This means they are gravitationally bound to one another.
At least seven of these galaxies exhibit this motion while others appear to
be merely line of sight coincidences forming the smooth and beautiful curve
of the chain. The prominent galaxies in this image are approximately
60 million light years distant so we are seeing these galaxies as they were
60 million years ago.
There are many more galaxies visible in this image and the entire cluster is
comprised of approximately 1,300 separate galaxies; perhaps as many as 2,000
galaxies each with billions of stars.
The Virgo Cluster is a small part of the Virgo Supercluster which includes
our Local Group; the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies and other
smaller galaxies. The super cluster contains perhaps as many as 100
galaxy groups and clusters and is only one of millions of superclusters in
the observable universe.
Feeling small yet?
Telescope: TMB130SS @ f/7
Camera: SBIG STL-6303E
Acquisition and Guiding: Maxim DL
LRGB Combine Exposures:
Luminance - 20 x 600, Bin 1x1, 3.3 hrs
Red - 10x300 Seconds, Bin 2x2
Green - 10x300 Seconds, Bin 2x2
Blue - 10x300 Seconds, Bin 2x2
ImagesPlus: Calibration, align and
combine, digital development
Photoshop CS4: Luminance, color combine, levels, curves,
LAB color adjustment, high pass filter
NeatImage: Noise reduction