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Challenge #1 – C2

TargetTypeR. A.Dec.ConstellationMagnitudeSize
C26 (NGC 4244)Spiral Galaxy12h 17m 30s+37° 48′ 28″Canes Venatici9.916×7 arcmins

Overview

The Silver Needle galaxy is a beautiful edge-on spiral discovered by William Herschel in March 1787.

A member of the 240-strong Canes Venatici I Cloud of galaxies, C26 lies beyond the limit of the Loca Group but closer than M81/M101, in the region of 14 million light-years away. Even though this is a large group of galaxies, C26 is lonely, with only three other members within 7 million light-years of it.

It’s also a relatively small galaxy, with a mass of 10 billion suns and a diameter of about 70,000 light-years. It’s receding from us at 155 miles per second (250 km/s). It’s speculated that a black hole with a mass of around half a million suns lies at the heart of this glowing needle of stars.

C26, the Silver Needle Galaxy in Canes Venatici (source).

Finder Charts

This first sky chart, from SkySafari 6, shows the sky looking west at 10:00 p.m. in mid-June.

The best way to identify the patch of sky that C26 (NGC 4244) calls home, is by locating the easily identified Big Dipper (Plough) asterism, circled orange on the chart. The small constellation of Canes Venatici nestles beneath the Big Dipper’s ‘handle’.

Stars on this chart are shown to magnitude 5.0 and the moon and planets are not shown.

[C2-1] This galaxy hunt begins with finding Canes Venatici. Click for full-screen.

The two bright stars of Canes Venatici are Cor Caroli and Chara, both of which are bright enough to be seen with the naked eye even under moderate light pollution. Use both of these to locate the slightly fainter 6 CVn, shining at magnitude five and just a short hop away from the Silver Needle galaxy.

[C2-2] Use Cor Caroli and Chara to track down 6 CVn. Click for full-screen.

This third chart shows stars to magnitude eight, comfortably visible in binoculars or a magnifying finderscope. In the line from Chara to 6 CVn, note the pair of magnitude seven stars within the same 1° field of view as our galaxy, themselves about 2° southwest of 6 CVn.

[C2-3] Two magnitude seven stars help us locate C26. Click for full-screen or download the pdf below.

Now you have this delicate galaxy in your eyepiece, what should you expect to see?

Individual Telescope Views

The following views will help you find C2 in different telescope types by presenting the images as your telescope will show them. The first image is with a black sky and white stars, the second picture is the same image but presented in inverse monochrome. Black stars on a white background is often easier to use at the telescope. Stars are shown to magnitude 10.0 and the star 6 CVn is shown in each image.

Each image can be clicked on for a full-screen version.

Upright View – This is what your eyes see unaided and through a reflex or red-dot finderscope

[C2-4]
[C2-5]

Upside-down view – This is what reflectors and magnifying finders show, and refractors / Cassegrains without a star diagonal

[C2-6]
[C2-7]

Mirrored View – Refractors and Cassegrain models with a star diagonal show this view

[C2-8]
[C2-9]

Observation

This is an object that lives up to its name. When you spy it in your eyepiece, you’ll note just a thin needle of delicate starlight. Start with low magnification to reveal the ethereal form of this thin ellipse. Note how its opposite ends really do seem to taper to needle points.

With a larger scope and good seeing, there is mottling visible at higher magnification, but it takes some effort to discover it.

There is no bright, bulging core to be seen here, but there is certainly a sense of dense light at the heart of this wafer of galactic light. It’s almost stellar in appearance.


PDFs for Printing

Each of the star maps above is reproduced as a pdf below. Each star map has a number in [square brackets] beneath it which corresponds to the file number below. If you want image [C2-1], for example, click the ‘download’ button next to it below and you’ll be able to open it as a printable pdf.

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