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Is there a Best Galaxies List?

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#1 Darren

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Posted 15 May 2023 - 02:07 PM

Hey All,

I got curious about this after seeing a recent APOD image of NGC 5128 (Centaurus A) which described it as the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky (relative to Earth, obviously)

So I guess that would be after the LMC, SMC, M31, and M33. The first two I've never seen due to my northerly location. But although overall M33 might be brighter, it is far less easy to view telescopically than M81 or M51, for instance. I have only seen it twice, and I can nail M81/M82 from my suburban backyard within seconds. From up in cottage country I was actually able to view them in a 60mm refractor.

So is there a list of galaxies suitable for small to medium scopes sorted by surface brightness rather than overall brightness?

Many thanks.

 

 


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#2 jmillsbss

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Posted 15 May 2023 - 02:35 PM

I use SkySafari 6 Plus and you can set limits for objects by a number of factors.  Settings can allow you to only see galaxies, nebula, stars and meteors by their surface brightness or magnitude or even size.  There are many "tonight's best X" lists and you can add details to your own catalog of what you've seen and when.  Maybe something like that will give you a starting point?


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#3 Tony Flanders

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Posted 15 May 2023 - 03:16 PM

But although overall M33 might be brighter, it is far less easy to view telescopically than M81 or M51, for instance.


That's only true for locations with pretty severe light pollution. That does, of course, include most places where most amateur astronomers live. But serious deep-sky observers who live in or near significant population centers usually commute to darker sites for the lion's share of their observing.

From a dark site most people can see M33 fairly easily without optical aid. A handful of people have also spotted M81 without optical aid from superb sites, but that's generally considered to be a true tour de force. And I've never heard of anybody spotting M51 without optical aid.

Perhaps more to the point, from a dark location at mid-northern latitudes M33 displays more detail in modest-sized scopes than any other galaxy except for our own Milky Way. Its spiral structure is subtler than M51's, but to make up for that it contains a wealth of star clouds and emission areas that are surprisingly easy to spot. The brightest of those, NGC 604, has very high surface brightness, making it relatively easy to spot even from a typical suburb.
 

So is there a list of galaxies suitable for small to medium scopes sorted by surface brightness rather than overall brightness?


Listed surface brightness doesn't tell the whole story, either. For instance M31's surface brightness is typically listed around mag 22.2 per square arcsecond, which is fainter than (say) M81 and much fainter than (say) M65 and M66. Yet M31 is indisputably much easier to spot than any of those, both under bright and dark skies.

You would probably find the ratings in my Urban/Suburban Messier Guide to be useful. The Messier catalog includes most galaxies that are genuinely obvious in suburban skies, but there are also a few super-easy non-Messier galaxies like NGC 2903 in Leo.

 

Some one of these days I plan to make the lists on that website sortable by column.


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#4 Darren

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Posted 15 May 2023 - 03:27 PM

I use SkySafari 6 Plus and you can set limits for objects by a number of factors.  Settings can allow you to only see galaxies, nebula, stars and meteors by their surface brightness or magnitude or even size.  There are many "tonight's best X" lists and you can add details to your own catalog of what you've seen and when.  Maybe something like that will give you a starting point?

Thanks, I will definitely check that out!



#5 Aaron Zhang

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Posted 15 May 2023 - 03:46 PM

I second the recommendation for Tony Flanders' Urban/Suburban Messier guide.

 

In general, my thoughts on the easiest galaxies to observe in light polluted skies are the following. I observe entirely from Bortle 7 skies (17.8-18.3 mpsas). The Messier catalog is a good place to start, although there are some galaxies that aren't so easy, as you noted. Nevertheless, all the Messier galaxies are visible in my 10-inch Dob, and most are visible in my 3-inch refractor.

 

Then, there's the Herschel 400, which contains about 200 galaxies. I've found that there's a lot of overlap between the galaxies that I can see in my 10-inch Dob and the Herschel 400. This is because a lot (but not all) of the Herschel 400 galaxies have concentrated cores, which makes them visible even in light pollution. I haven't tried to observe these in my 3-inch refractor, though.

 

If you have access to darker skies, check out Don Pensack's list of 500 DSOs. The galaxies here are more difficult in my skies than the Herschel 400, but note that this isn't a bad thing about the list: a lot of the Herschel 400 galaxies have concentrated cores that make them easier to see in light pollution, but the same galaxies might not be the most interesting targets in dark skies.


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#6 ABQJeff

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Posted 15 May 2023 - 04:18 PM

The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS) 200 and TAC Eye-candy* lists are meant to be the ‘next DSO’ list after Messier and are generally easier than the Pensack 500 or DeepMap 600 lists (which include fainter objects).

 

So after doing Messier galaxies I would do the galaxies in those two lists.

 

* TAC Eye Candy list is a combination of Saguaro Astronomy Club (SAC) and Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) lists.


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#7 Redbetter

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Posted 15 May 2023 - 07:05 PM

For northern hemisphere observers, M81 is undoubtedly brighter than Centraurus A due to the low declination of the latter.  I only view Centaurus A when I am far enough south to get a decent look--but that still isn't enough to really do it justice.  Dimming and loss of contrast when looking through several air masses is a killer for galaxy observing.   Last time I viewed Centaurus A was in Hawaii a two months ago.  I don't bother with it here where it is low in the muck and light dome intrusion to the south wrecks it even at my main dark site (when I can catch it before being lost in the trees.)

 

M33 has loads of detail.  The details themselves are considerably higher surface brightness than the average of the galaxy itself.  Some of the same is true with M101.  This is where aperture carries advantages, the clumps are bright enough to resolve and detect in somewhat poorer conditions where small apertures cannot show them.


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#8 Allan Wade

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Posted 16 May 2023 - 01:19 AM

I've seen M33 naked eye at times from Australia. It's a lot easier to see naked eye in the northern hemisphere. Never seen M81/82 naked eye. As Tony suggested, when starting out on ones galaxy observing career, the Messier galaxies are a great place to start.


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#9 bnies

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Posted 16 May 2023 - 10:42 AM

Here's a list of galaxies including photos, description and finder charts:

https://www.deepskyc...jects.en.php/Gx


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#10 Darren

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Posted 16 May 2023 - 05:52 PM

From a dark site most people can see M33 fairly easily without optical aid. A handful of people have also spotted M81 without optical aid from superb sites, but that's generally considered to be a true tour de force. And I've never heard of anybody spotting M51 without optical aid.

Perhaps more to the point, from a dark location at mid-northern latitudes M33 displays more detail in modest-sized scopes than any other galaxy except for our own Milky Way. Its spiral structure is subtler than M51's, but to make up for that it contains a wealth of star clouds and emission areas that are surprisingly easy to spot. The brightest of those, NGC 604, has very high surface brightness, making it relatively easy to spot even from a typical suburb.
 

Listed surface brightness doesn't tell the whole story, either. For instance M31's surface brightness is typically listed around mag 22.2 per square arcsecond, which is fainter than (say) M81 and much fainter than (say) M65 and M66. Yet M31 is indisputably much easier to spot than any of those, both under bright and dark skies.

I have never seen M33 without optical aid. Even at Cherry Springs. It was only August though and might have been too low on the horizon. M31 was stunning in the 10". I saw two dust lanes and two spiral arms, and it filled two whole FoV's with a 32mm plossl. 

And maybe the suburbs are darker where you live, but I can tell you that NGC 604 is invisible where I live. M33 and M101 are both roundish fuzzy glows at our club's observing site out of town and invisible from my back deck. The Leo Triplet looks quite nice from our club site, but again, are barely visible from my home. I think I have to move somewhere darker. Also, my eyes are going to be 63 years old in July, so that doesn't help.

Thanks for the recommendation of the guide, I will definitely check it out.



#11 KidOrion

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Posted 16 May 2023 - 10:09 PM

All galaxies are "best" galaxies!



#12 j.gardavsky

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Posted 17 May 2023 - 03:04 PM

A good guide to the best DSOs, including the galaxies, is the:

Michael E. Bakich: "1,001 Celestial Wonders to See Before You Die"

from the Patrick Moore's Practical Astronomy Series

 

The objects, including the galaxies, are sorted months by months, some of them are illustrated.

 

Regarding the visible details in the galaxies, I am with Redbetter in post #7.

 

The Triangulum Galaxy M33 offers the star birth regions, nicely visible through the UHC filters, and several spiral arms, also lighted with the patches of the OB stars associations.

 

The Cigar Galaxy M82 shows the condensations, better seen through the yellow long pass filters.

 

The Bode Galaxy M81, and the M101 galaxy, reveal nicely the spiral arms, sometimes the blue(RGB) CCD filters have helped.

 

The M51 reveals as a minimum the outer spiral arm, and eventually widening into the surrounding tidal flow.

 

The NGC 2903 galaxy south of Lambda Leonis, nicknamed as the Leo Head Galaxy, shows its northern and southern spiral arms.

 

And there are of course more galaxies, showing some condensations and details.

 

Clear skies,

JG


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#13 rjacks

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Posted 21 May 2023 - 03:13 AM

Centaurus A is possibly the most spectacular galaxy in the sky if you are viewing from the southern hemisphere, but from Georgia, it can't muscle through the atmosphere at its maximum altitude. I rarely bother to look at it from here. M51 is spectacular in dark skies, but disappointing under light pollution. So, "best galaxies" depends on your latitude and your sky conditions. Find some good lists, and just work through them and see what you like. 


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#14 Chad7531

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Posted 21 May 2023 - 03:23 AM

I’m at 41.3 degrees north and worked my way about halfway through this list tonight, most all of them have been very satisfying.

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  • IMG_2844.png

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#15 Chad7531

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Posted 21 May 2023 - 03:23 AM

Continued. 

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#16 Tony Flanders

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Posted 21 May 2023 - 05:07 AM

Just to clarify one thing, it's case it's not obvious to everyone here ...

 

The Original Poster was really requesting a list of galaxies that are readily visible through heavy light pollution, not a list of galaxies that show maximum detail under dark skies. Those two criteria are, in fact, almost contradictory to each other. In general, face-on spirals show much more detail under dark skies than any other kind of galaxy of similar magnitude, but face-on spirals also tend to have low surface brightness, making them hard to detect under bright skies.

 

There are, of course, a few galaxies that happen to have high-surface-brightness detail, such as M82 and NGC 4565. M82 is in my opinion the galaxy that's most likely to show significant structure under bright skies; I have seen the main two dust lanes when my SQM read brighter than 18.0.

 

And there are some galaxies like M81 that have very bright cores, making them readily visible under bright skies, but only display their spiral arms under very dark skies.


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#17 j.gardavsky

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Posted 21 May 2023 - 02:30 PM

Hello Darren,

 

right now, and for the days to come, I would pay attention to the supernova in the M101 galaxy, as imaged by Stefan Korth,

 

https://forum.astron...7/#post-1797208

 

There is a good chance, that the supernova will brighten from its 12.5m, and that it will become comfortably visible through the small telescopes.

 

Clear skies,

JG


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#18 Aaron Zhang

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Posted 21 May 2023 - 04:24 PM

I haven't tried to view most of these in a small scope, but here are some galaxies that stood out for me in my 10" Dob from Bortle 7 skies:

 

M 49, 51, 60, 64, 65, 66, 81, 82, 87, 94, 96, 102, 104, 105, 106

 

NGC 2841, 3115, 3377, 3384, 3489, 3521, 4111, 4216, 4251, 4278, 4350, 4449, 4478, 4490, 4526, 4546, 4565, 4570, 4697, 4699, 5005, 5195, 5322, 5363

 

These are a subset of the galaxies in my list of 134 Spring objects for Bortle 7 skies.


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#19 Starman1

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Posted 22 May 2023 - 04:53 PM

Hey All,

I got curious about this after seeing a recent APOD image of NGC 5128 (Centaurus A) which described it as the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky (relative to Earth, obviously)

So I guess that would be after the LMC, SMC, M31, and M33. The first two I've never seen due to my northerly location. But although overall M33 might be brighter, it is far less easy to view telescopically than M81 or M51, for instance. I have only seen it twice, and I can nail M81/M82 from my suburban backyard within seconds. From up in cottage country I was actually able to view them in a 60mm refractor.

So is there a list of galaxies suitable for small to medium scopes sorted by surface brightness rather than overall brightness?

Many thanks.

Here is a list of 500 objects visible in small scopes in dark skies.

The list contains 211 galaxies, all north of -40°, with total integrated Magnitude (TIM) and surface brightness magnitude (SB) listed foe each one.

You may have a problem with some of them in a light-polluted sky.

You can sort the list by SB if you want.

https://www.cloudyni...list/?p=6165843

 

P.S. it's hard to beat how spectacular M104 is.  I've seen it here in LA in my 4" with the Moon above the horizon!


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#20 Starman1

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Posted 22 May 2023 - 04:54 PM

Hello Darren,

 

right now, and for the days to come, I would pay attention to the supernova in the M101 galaxy, as imaged by Stefan Korth,

 

https://forum.astron...7/#post-1797208

 

There is a good chance, that the supernova will brighten from its 12.5m, and that it will become comfortably visible through the small telescopes.

 

Clear skies,

JG

May 20 it was ~11.75, so is still brightening.


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#21 j.gardavsky

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Posted 23 May 2023 - 04:23 AM

May 20 it was ~11.75, so is still brightening.

There is more on this supernova brightness in

https://www.cloudyni...4#entry12709078

 

Hoping for Thursday night clear skies above my location,

JG



#22 Darren

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Posted 23 May 2023 - 10:43 PM

There is more on this supernova brightness in

https://www.cloudyni...4#entry12709078

 

Hoping for Thursday night clear skies above my location,

JG

Thanks - I was going to try to nail it Sunday night but the skies were too smoky. I could barely get M82, so M101 would have been a real challenge. And it's in the "Dob hole" right now, making it tougher to locate.

Maybe next weekend.



#23 j.gardavsky

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Posted 24 May 2023 - 02:56 AM

Darren,

 

EPinNC has posted a star hopping image to the supernova, for the worst case scenario, when just the core of the M101 is left to be visible,

 

post-361082-0-31356100-1684865929_thumb.

(linked from  https://www.cloudyni...xf/?p=12709878)

 

Happy hunting,

JG


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#24 CrazyPanda

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Posted 26 May 2023 - 11:30 AM

May 20 it was ~11.75, so is still brightening.

I estimated mag 11 last night based on the listed magnitudes of stars in the area.

 

It was ever so slightly brighter than nearby TYC 3852-1108-1, which Sky Safari shows as 11.48.



#25 Darren

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Posted 26 May 2023 - 12:16 PM

Here is a list of 500 objects visible in small scopes in dark skies.

The list contains 211 galaxies, all north of -40°, with total integrated Magnitude (TIM) and surface brightness magnitude (SB) listed foe each one.

You may have a problem with some of them in a light-polluted sky.

You can sort the list by SB if you want.

https://www.cloudyni...list/?p=6165843

 

P.S. it's hard to beat how spectacular M104 is.  I've seen it here in LA in my 4" with the Moon above the horizon!

LOL, I went to the original thread to download the file, and when I went to save it, I realized I already had a copy from 2014.

Many thanks!




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