OBSERVER’S CHALLENGE* – April, 2023
by Glenn Chaple
NGC 3044 Galaxy in Sextans (Magnitude 12.5, Size 4.6’ X 0.7’)
When William Herschel compiled his Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars, he placed a majority of nebulae into three distinct categories – Class I (Bright Nebulae), Class II (Faint Nebulae), and Class III (Very Faint Nebulae). Our April Observer’s Challenge, the edge-on barred spiral galaxy NGC 3044 in Sextans, is a Class III Herschel object. It was visually faint to him; it’s a faint visual challenge for the modern-day backyard astronomer. Herschel discovered it on the night of December 13, 1784, describing it as “Very bright, large, very much extended 151 degrees, very suddenly much brighter in the middle, equals a star of 10th magnitude.”
Too faint to be included in the Herschel 400 list and not plotted in Sky and Telescope’s Pocket Sky Atlas, NGC 3044 is located 4 degrees west-northwest of the 4.5 magnitude star alpha (α) Sextantis and 4½ degrees northeast of magnitude 3.9 iota (ι) Hydrae at the 2000.0 coordinates, RA 9h53m40.9s and Dec +01o34’46.7”. Star-hoppers can work their way from either star by referring to the accompanying finder charts.
From dark-sky regions, NGC 3044 can be seen with a 10-inch scope. Observers working under slightly light polluted suburban locations will need nearly twice that aperture. A reasonably high magnification and a broadband nebula filter will help.
According to various sources, NGC 3044 lies somewhere between 65 and 75 million light years away. The light you see when you peer into the eyepiece left this galaxy near the end of the Mesozoic era around the time of the demise of the dinosaurs.
NGC 3044 Finder Charts
Chart from theskylive.com
Chart from AAVSO Variable Star Plotter (VSP). The bright star near lower left is alpha (α) Sextantis; the one at lower right is iota (ι) Hydrae. Stars shown to 10th magnitude in this 7 by 4 degree field. North is up.
NGC 3044 Image
Mario Motta, MD. (ATMoB) “Taken with my C14 from Florida, 50 min of Lum subs, then processed.”