The First 30 NGC objects
By Paul Markov, October 1999

The New General Catalog (NGC) is a listing of nearly 8,000 non-stellar objects, such as star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies, compiled by J.L.E. Dreyer over 100 years ago. Have you ever wondered how the NGC objects were numbered and organized? Have you ever seen the first few NGC objects?

It just happens that Fall is the best time of the year to view objects at the beginning of the NGC because they are numbered according to their right ascension (R.A.), starting from zero hours. Allow me to explain; zero hours of R.A. is the location astronomers chose to mark the vernal equinox, which is where the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator, as the Sun crosses over from the southern celestial hemisphere to the northern celestial hemisphere. Specifically, the vernal equinox occurs around March 21, indicating that the Sun has an R.A of zero hours. Because we are approximately 6 months away from March 21, the Sun is currently moving through the exact opposite side of the celestial sphere (i.e. its R.A. is 12 hours), meaning darkness prevails where the first few hundred NGC objects are located.

If you check a star chart you will notice that zero hours of R.A. traverses the constellations of Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Pegasus, Pisces, Cetus, Sculptor, and Phoenix, and as expected, you will find the first several NGC objects solely in these constellations.

You can expect NGC 1 to have an R.A. very close to 0 hours, 0 minutes, and the very last NGC to have an R.A. very close to 23 hours, 59 minutes. The object’s declination is only used for cataloging purposes if two objects have the exact same R.A., in which case the objects with the most northerly declination has the lower NGC number. Something to keep in mind while planning an observing session is that you could have NGC "x" in Draco, and NGC "x+1" in Sagittarius, therefore to avoid wild swings in declination with your telescope you should not attempt to observe NGC objects sequentially, instead plan your observing list by constellation. In the event two objects have the exact same R.A. and Declination, a letter (A, B, C, etc) is added to the number, such as NGC 5463B. Despite these straight forward rules for numbering NGC objects, you will still find several that do not follow the above criteria, most likely because their positions were not measured accurately when first cataloged.

I chose to describe just the first 30 objects, as I thought this would make a good observing list for your next observing sessions. Most of the objects listed below are quite faint, so you will require at least an 8-inch telescope. In summary, of the first 30 NGC objects only 22 can actually be observed (some are not real deep sky objects, some don’t actually exist, and some are too far south to be observed). Of these 22 objects, I believe that 7 can be observed with an 8-inch telescope, 6 with a 10-inch telescope, 5 with a 12-inch scope, and 4 with a 16 inch or larger telescope. I would like to hear from anyone who has seen these objects via email at pmarkov@ica.net. Please let me know your sky conditions and aperture used, along with any additional observations you made. The object data is organized as follows :

Object Type

Const.

R.A. Dec.

Mag.

S.B.

Size

U2000

SA2000

(Const. = Constellation, R.A. = Right Ascension, Dec. = Declination, Mag. = Magnitude, S.B. = Surface Brightness, U2000 = map number for Uranometria, SA2000 = Sky Atlas 2000). The first few descriptive words for each object are from the actual New General Catalog "description" field, while the rest of the comments are my own. All object data is from the Saguaro Astronomy Club database, which can be downloaded free of charge at www.saguaroastro.org (highly recommended!).

NGC 1 GALAXY

PEG

00 07.3 +27 42

12.9

13.5

2'X1.5'

125

4

Faint, small, round. I spotted this galaxy for the first time in 1989 from a dark sky site north of Belleville using an 8-inch SCT at 133X. My logbook notes state that it was extremely faint, and that averted vision was required. If you try with a 10-inch scope, you should have no trouble seeing NGC 1. NGC 2, 16, and 22 lie within the same field of view.

NGC 2 GALAXY

PEG

00 07.3 +27 40

14.2

13.6

1.4'X1'

125

4

Very faint, small. You will need at the very least a 10-inch scope and dark country skies, but 12-inches or more will greatly improve you chances of seeing NGC 2. Ron Scherer and Alan Whitman both from the Okanagan Centre saw NGC 2 under a fairly dark sky on the same night. Ron saw it when using averted vision only with his 10-inch telescope, while Alan observed it with his 16-inch Newtonian at 261X and writes "NGC 2 is quite large and amorphous and it took perhaps 15 seconds to discern it, despite knowing where it was." NGC 1, 16, and 22 lie within the same field of view. Note: NGC 7839 (next to NGC 1 and NGC 2) as shown in Uranometria (Oct. 1987 printing) is an error and does not exist.

NGC 3 GALAXY

PSC

00 07.3 +08 17

13.3

12.8

1.2'X0.7'

170

10

Faint, very small, round, almost stellar. A 10-inch to 12-inch telescope is needed for this small galaxy. In case you have a large scope, there is a nice quartet of very faint galaxies in the same field of view; they are NGC 7834 (mag. 14.3), NGC 7835 (mag. 15.5), NGC 7837 (mag. 16), NGC 7838 (mag. 15.5).

NGC 4 GALAXY

PSC

00 08.2 +08 09

N/A

N/A

N/A

170

10

Extremely faint, no magnitude or size available for this galaxy, however it is in the same field of view as NGC 3. I examined an on-line image of this galaxy field (Space Telescope Science Institute’s Digitized Sky Survery at http://archive.stsci.edu/dss/) and when comparing it to NGC 7837 and NGC 7838, I am estimating NGC 4 to be around 17th magnitude and about 0.6’ X 0.4’ in size. This object is probably reserved for very large telescopes in the 20-inch "plus" range.

NGC 5 GALAXY

AND

00 07.8 +35 21

13.3

13.2

1.2'X0.7'

89

4

Very faint, very small. This is a difficult object to locate due to its distance from any relatively bright stars. You will require a 10-inch to 12-inch scope to see this galaxy. Exactly 2 degrees south of NGC 11.

NGC 6 NONEX

AND

00 08.3 +32 30      

89

4

This object does not exist. This is most likely a mis-plotted observation of NGC 20.

NGC 7 GALAXY

SCL

00 08.4 -29 55

13.9

14

2.5'

350

18

Extremely faint, pretty large, elongated. This is definitely a challenging object, even for the larger telescopes, due to its 30 degree south declination and its 13.9 magnitude. Find a friend with a 16-inch or larger Dobsonian and give it a try. NGC 10 lies exactly 4 degrees to the south.

NGC 8 2STAR

PEG

00 08.8 +23 50

15

   

125

4

This object is actually a double star. Note that Uranometria (Oct. 1987 printing) mistakenly plots NGC 8 as a galaxy.

NGC 9 GALAXY

PEG

00 08.9 +23 48

13.6

13.3

2'X1'

125

4

Faint, round. At this magnitude and low surface brightness, I would suggest at least a 12-inch scope to view this object.

NGC 10 GALAXY

SCL

00 08.7 -33 53

12.5

13.5

2.4'X1.2'

350

18

Bright nucleus, pretty large, slightly elongated. Although quite low in the sky, an 8-inch scope should show it from a dark sky. NGC 7 lies exactly 4 degrees to the north.

NGC 11 GALAXY

AND

00 08.7 +37 26

13.7

12.5

1.6'X0.22'

89

4

Very faint, very small, slightly elongated. Exactly 2 degrees north of NGC 5. This one will be a difficult object in a 10-inch telescope from a dark sky, but its relatively "bright" surface brightness might make it visible. A 12-inch scope is most likely required.

NGC 12 GALAXY

PSC

00 08.8 +04 36

13.1

14

2'X2'

215

10

Extremely faint, pretty large. This is another challenging object reserved for the larger telescope only. Its relatively large size makes its surface brightness very low. This object is located in a part of the sky devoid of any brighter stars, making star-hopping to it quite difficult.

NGC 13 GALAXY

AND

00 08.8 +33 25

13.2

13.5

3'X1'

89

4

Very faint, very small. Use at least a 10-inch scope from a dark country sky. NGC 20, 21, and 29 lie within the same field of view, and all are within half a degree of a magnitude 7.1 star.

NGC 14 GALAXY

PEG

00 08.7 +15 48

12.1

13.9

3'X2'

170

10

Very faint, pretty small, round. This relatively large galaxy is just over a degree north-west of Gamma Pegasi. Because of its low surface brightness I would recommend attempting this galaxy with a 12-inch telescope.

NGC 15 GALAXY

PEG

00 09.1 +21 36

13.8

13.1

1.2'X0.7'

125

4

Very faint, pretty small, round. Here’s another difficult object, not only because of its magnitude, but also because there are very few stars you can use for star-hopping to its location. Try with a 12 -inch or larger telescope.

NGC 16 GALAXY

PEG

00 09.1 +27 43

12

12.4

2'X1'

125

4

Pretty bright, small, round. You should have no trouble viewing this galaxy with as little 6 inches of aperture. NGC 1, 2, and 22 lie within the same field of view. I observed this object in 1988 from reasonably dark skies north of Bowmanville) using an 8-inch SCT at 100X. My logbook notes state that the object was very faint, small, round, and that averted vision helped, but was not necessary. I saw it again in 1991 from a dark sky site north of Belleville, and this time it was not difficult to see.

NGC 17 NONEX

CET

00 09.1 -12 08      

260

10

This object does not exist. It is most likely a mis-plotted observation of NGC 34.

NGC 18 NONEX

PEG

00 09.4 +27 43      

125

4

This object does not exist.

NGC 19 NONEX

AND

00 09.4 +32 50      

89

4

This object does not exist.

NGC 20 GALAXY

AND

00 09.6 +33 18

13

13.8

1.7'X1.5'

89

4

Very faint, round. You will need at least a 10-inch scope to see this galaxy from a dark sky. NGC 13, 21, and 29 lie within the same field of view, and all are within half a degree of a magnitude 7.1 star.

NGC 21 GALAXY

AND

00 10.7 +32 58

13.2

12.6

1.2'X0.6'

89

4

Very faint, small, slightly elongated. An 8-inch to 10-inch telescope should show this galaxy because of its relative high surface brightness. NGC 13, 20, and 29 lie within the same field of view, and all are within half a degree of a magnitude 7.1 star.

NGC 22 GALAXY

PEG

00 09.8 +27 50

13.6

14.3

1.8'X1.4'

125

4

Very faint, pretty small, round. You will probably require a 16-inch telescope to view this very low surface brightness galaxy, however it may be possible to see it with as little as a 13-inch scope under very dark skies. Note that there is a 9th magnitude star just 3 arc-minutes north of NGC 22 which will most interfere with observing this galaxy. NGC 1, 2, 16 lie within same field of view.

NGC 23 GALAXY

PEG

00 09.9 +25 55

12

13

2'X2'

125

4

The nucleus is very small, but bright. NGC 26 lies within the same field of view. I saw this object at the same time I spotted NGC 16 with my 8-inch SCT. My logbook notes state that it was very similar in appearance to NGC 16, and that averted vision helped but was not necessary. You should have no trouble seeing this galaxy with an 8-inch telescope.

NGC 24 GALAXY

SCL

00 10.0 -24 59

11.6

13.7

6'X2'

305

18

Very faint, large, quite elongated. Despite its low declination an 8-inch telescope will show this galaxy. I saw this object in 1994 from a dark sky north of Belleville using an 8-inch SCT at 62X. My logbook notes state that it was difficult to locate (due to few stars that could be used for star-hopping), it was extremely faint, and that I could not discern its shape. I am sure its low surface brightness and altitude contributed to its poor appearance.

NGC 25 GALAXY

PHE

00 09.9 -57 03

13

13

1.4'X0.8'

416

24

This galaxy, located in the constellation Phoenix, is not visible from mid-northern latitudes.

NGC 26 GALAXY

PEG

00 10.4 +25 49

12.7

13.6

2'X2'

125

4

Very faint, pretty large, round. An 8-inch scope should suffice for spotting this galaxy from a dark sky. Its low surface brightness will require excellent transparency. NGC 23 lies within the same field of view.

NGC 27 GALAXY

AND

00 10.5 +29 00

13.4

12.8

1.5'X0.6'

89

4

Extremely faint, very small, elongated. This galaxy is within half a degree of second magnitude Alpha Andromedae. Because it is very easy to find its location, use NGC 27 to "evaluate" your current sky conditions. If you can see it, carry on looking for even fainter objects. A 10-inch telescope will be required for this galaxy.

NGC 28 GALAXY

PHE

00 10.3 -57 01

13.6

13.1

1.1'X0.6'

416

24

This galaxy, located in the constellation Phoenix, is not visible from mid-northern latitudes.

NGC 29 GALAXY

AND

00 10.8 +33 21

12.7

12.9

2'X1'

89

4

Pretty bright, pretty large, elongated. Try using an 8-inch telescope under a dark country sky.

NGC 13, 20, and 21 lie within the same field of view, and all are within half a degree of a magnitude 7.1 star.

NGC 30 2STAR

PEG

00 10.8 +21 57      

125

4

This object is just a double star, and not a true deep sky object. A night of poor seeing will make this double star take on the appearance of a fuzzy galaxy.

 

Copyright (C) 1999 by Paul Markov


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