Sand and Stars

Fornax Galaxy Cluster

15 Dec 2017

The Fornax Galaxy Cluster lies 62 million light-years away and it offers us an absolute galaxy bonanza… of its roughly 600 members, there are over 50 within reach of our telescopes. Indeed, cruising around the galaxy cluster at medium magnification to get some idea of the galaxies and its size leaves me dumfounded at the sight of this enormous family of galaxies that are gravitationally bound together. I have recorded my observations of the galaxies that I’ve annotated on this lovely image.

The Fornax 1 Galaxy Cluster overflows into Eridanus, so four of the sixteen galaxies depicted in this image are in Eridanus -NGCs 1389, 1386, 1369 and PGC 13500, while NGC 1404 is sitting firmly on the fence!

The Fornax 1 Galaxy Cluster overflows into Eridanus, so four of the sixteen galaxies depicted in this image are in Eridanus – NGCs 1389, 1386, 1369 and PGC 13500, while NGC 1404 is sitting firmly on the fence!



16″ f4.5 Dobs; 130x, 228x and 333x


NGC 1365

RA 03 33 36.7    Dec -36 08 20    Mag 9.6   Size 11.0′x6.2′   SB 14.1   PA 32°

What a spectacular barred spiral! E.J. Hartung wrote, “This barred spiral is the best object of its type for the southern observer”, and I reckon anyone who observes it would fully agree. It certainly is the most impressive barred spiral I’ve observed. The oval core is quite bright and is oriented NE-SW, and it is embedded in the centre of the galaxy’s bar that runs nearly E-W. The two arms that spiral off the ends of the bar are magnificent! The brighter and more obvious one extends from the western end of the bar. It sweeps majestically NNE, tapering to an unusual-looking point just north of a mag 12.5 that lies ~1.5′ NW of the core. The other arm, sweeping towards the SSW from the eastern end of the bar is pretty faint and considerably thinner and it fades rapidly from view, but like its brighter counterpart, it also tapers away to a point as it fades from view.


NGC 1373

RA 03 34 59.3 Dec -35 10 20 Mag 13.3 Size 0.7′x0.7′ SB 13.2 PA 131° 

NGC 1374 

RA 03 34 59.3   Dec -35 10 20   Mag 13.3   Size 0.7′x0.7′   SB 12.26   PA 124°

NGC 1375 

RA 03 35 17.0   Dec -35 15 58    Mag 12.4   Size 2.2′x0.9′   SB 13.06   PA 91°

This is a lovely little trio! NGC 1373 is the northernmost of the three and is a very faint, very small even glow, very slightly elongated NW-SW. NGC 1374 lies 4.8′ SE of NGC 1373. It forms a gorgeous pair with NGC 1375 which lies 2.3′ S – a beautifully round galaxy hovering “above” a gorgeous edge-on streak! NGC 1374, the beautifully round galaxy, is bright and moderately large, and has a bright core surrounded by a soft hazy halo. NGC 1375, the lovely edge-on streak that lies south of NGC 1375, is elongated E-W, and appears moderately bright, smallish, and with a bright core. It doesn’t have pointy ends; rather, they are very softly rounded and appear to simply melt into the surrounding sky.


NGC 1379 

RA 03 36 04.1   Dec -35 26 31   Mag 10.9   Size 2.4′x2.3′   SB 12.8   PA 17°

This galaxy appears bright, round, and fairly large. It has a faint narrow halo that surrounds a broad bright core and a faint stellar nucleus.


NGC 1380 

RA 03 36 27.6   Dec -34 58 35   Mag 9.9   Size 4.0′x2.4′   SB 12.2  PA 7°

This is a lovely galaxy! A beautifully bright, large oval-shaped galaxy, elongated N-S. It has a prominent core – bright and elongated, with the considerably fainter misty halo seeming to flow out at either end, as well as in a soft cocoon around the centre. The core brightens somewhat to the centre – but no sign of a nucleus, just a slightly brighter glow. A mag 14 star is superimposed on the galaxy, around 1′ SW of the centre.


NGC 1381 

RA 03 36 31.7   Dec -35 17 45   Mag 11.5   Size 2.7′x0.7′   SB 12.0   PA 139°

Another edge-on galaxy (I confess I am partial to edge-ons). Elongated NW-SE, this edge-on galaxy is fairly bright, large-ish, and elegantly slender with a small bright core and lovely pointy ends. It has a pretty pair of roughly mag 14 stars that add to the view – one ~2′ ESE, the other ~3′ NW.


NGC 1369 

RA 03 36 45.3   Dec -36 15 23   Mag 12.8   Size 1.5′x1.4′   SB 13.4   PA 12°

This galaxy appears as a very faint, small, round little glow of pale light. It forms a pretty triangle with a beautifully white mag 7.2 star to the SE and a softly yellowish mag 9.75 star to the SSE.


NGC 1387 

RA 03 36 57.2   Dec -35 30 25   Mag 10.7   Size 2.8′x2.6′   SB 12.7   PA 119°

This galaxy appears fairly bright, fairly large, round. It brightens to a bright core that contains a lovely bright, stellar nucleus.


NGC 1382 

RA 03 37 09.0   Dec -35 11 43   Mag 12.9   Size 1.5′x1.3′   SB 13.5   PA 26°

This galaxy appears faint, small, round and very diffuse – a lovely delicate round haziness. No sign of a core.


NGC 1389 

RA 03 37 12.0   Dec -35 44 50   Mag 11.5   Size 2.3′x1.2′   SB 12.5   PA 30°

This galaxy appears as moderately bright, moderately large slightly oval, slightly elongated NNE-SSW. It has a very thin, faint and hazy halo with a fairly bright and even core; no sign of a nucleus. It lies in a very interesting arrangement with three stars – a mag 10 star N and two mag 12 stars, one lying to the E and the other to the NE, the galaxy itself lying to the SW… and I confess I spent a little time trying to decide if they form a trapezoid or a parallelogram. (I went with parallelogram.)


NGC 1396 

RA 03 38 06.6   Dec -35 26 27   Mag 13.8   Size 0.7′x0.4′  SB 12.3  PA 90°

This galaxy appears faint, small, not-quite round but not oval, a smooth glow.


NGC 1399 

RA 03 38 29.7   Dec -35 26 53   Mag 9.6   Size 6.9′x6.5′   SB 13.7   PA 76°

This galaxy is a lovely sight! Very bright, large, and round. Its halo is fairly faint but it brightens to a very bright and extended core, and has a faint stellar nucleus. A faint star is superimposed just north of the centre; it looks very fetching so close to the equally stellar nucleus!


NGC 1404 

RA 03 38 51.7   Dec -35 35 40  Mag 10.0    Size 3.3′x3.0′  SB 12.5  PA 163°

NGC 1404 looks remarkably like NGC 1399, except for being smaller and having a higher surface brightness. It is very bright, moderately large, and round. It’s fairly faint halo brightens to a small, bright even core – but unlike NGC 1399, no sign of a stellar nucleus. A faint star is superimposed on the galaxy, 45″ SE of its centre. And to complete the view, a very attractive yellowy-orange mag 8.1 star lies 2.8′ SE.


PGC 13500 

RA 03 40 10.5   Dec -35 37 17    Mag 12.9   Size 2.3′x1.5′   SB 14.1  

The small galaxy PGC 13500 giving us a spectacular example of a galaxy under the gravitational grasp of a large gang of galaxies, as it plunges headlong into the cluster.
PGC 13500. Image credit Hubble/ESO

And to end off with… a remarkable galaxy (as if a cluster of galaxies isn’t remarkable enough)… not because of what you see in the eyepiece (or in my case, can’t see) but because of what’s going on up there. Astronomers say that it is a spectacular example of a galaxy under the gravitational grasp of a gang of galaxies… the small galaxy is being dragged into the Fornax Galaxy Cluster at 600 kilometers per second!!  (This galaxy is often listed as NGC 1427A. )


Copyright © 2017 Susan Young