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NGC 253 (523 of 18,816)


oc gc pln bn dn gx gxcl ast aka lost




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Caroline's Galaxy

NGC 253, ESO 474-29, LEDA 2789, MCG-04-03-009, SGC 004507-2533.9, UGCA 13, Sculptor Filament, Bennett 4, Caldwell 65, Caroline's Galaxy, Silver Coin, V 1, h 61, h 2345, GC 138

RA: 00h 47m 33.13s
Dec: −25° 17′ 17.8″

Con: Sculptor
Ch: MSA:364, U2:306, SA:18


(reference key)

Type: galaxy (Seyfert), Sc

Mag: B=8.04, V=7.07

Size: 26.91′ x 5.888′
PA: 52°

Image gallery

Sketches  (4)

Select a sketch and click the button to view

Photos  (9)

Select a photo and click the button to view

Historical observations

Caroline Herschel (1783)

Discovered by Caroline Herschel, sister of William Herschel.

William Herschel (1786)

Catalogue of One Thousand new Nebulae and Clusters of Stars

H V-001

"This nebula was discovered September 23, 1783, by my sister, Caroline Herschel, with an excellent small Newtonian Sweeper of 27 inches focal length, and a power of 30. I have therefore marked it with the initial letters, C.H. of her name. See also V.19. [NGC 891] discovered August 27, 1783 and VII.13. [NGC 2204] discovered February 26, 1783."

Ref: [1786RSPT...76..457H]

John Herschel

Observations of Nebulae ... between the years 1825 and 1833 (1833)

"A vL, mE, vB neb. (See figure 52.) Observed also in sweep 292, but no place taken. [Sweep 306]"

Sweep 292 was conducted on 1830 September 14; Sweep 306 on 1830 October 14.

Ref: Observations of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars, made at Slough, with a Twenty-feet Reflector, between the years 1825 and 1833. [1833PTRS..123..359H]

Cape Observations (1847)

This galaxy was first observed by Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope with an 18-inch f/13 speculum telescope on 20 November 1835. He recorded it as "very very bright; very very large; very much elongated; 30' long, 3' or 4' broad; has several stars in it; gradually much brighter towards the middle to a centre elongated like the nebula itself. The nebula is somewhat streaky and knotty in its constitution and may perhaps be resolvable." A second observation made on 12 September 1836 was recorded as "very very bright; very very very large; a superb object; 24' in length, breadth about 3'; posn = 143.8 very exact. Its light is somewhat streaky, but I see no stars in it but 4 large and one very small one, and these seem not to belong to it, there being many near. - The difference of R Ascensions of this and the former obs. arises in great part from the undefined nature of the object."

Lassell, W. (1866)

Bibcode: [1866MmRAS..36....1L]

Sketched and described.

Published comments

Bailey, S.I. (1908)

"!! nebula, elliptical, elongated at 50, 20'x4', irregular, mottled, stars involved."

Bailey, S.I. (1908) A catalogue of bright stars and nebulae. Ann.Harv.Coll.Obs., 60(8), 199.

Remarks, p.216: "On A3386, having an exposure of 4 hours, this nebula is shown as a striking object, 30'x5', somewhat resembling the Great Nebula in Andromeda, but without a central nucleus. It resembles more closely, however, NGC 6618, which has a gaseous spectrum."

Knox Shaw, H. (1915)

Knox Shaw, H. (1915) Note on the nebulae and star clusters shown on the Franklin-Adams plates. M.N.R.A.S., 76(2), 105-107.

Comments on papers by Harding (MNRAS, 74(8)), and Melotte (MemRAS 60(5)) describing objects foundon the Franklin-Adams plates; compares with plates taken with the Reynolds reflector (Helwan Obs Bull. 9-15):

NGC 253 is a large well-known spiral [previously included in Class II-Spindle-shaped Nebulae]

Doig, P. (1925)

Journal BAA, 36, Nov, p58.

Beautiful spiral, 21'x4' (Curtis), 18'x5' (Reynolds); very faint alm.stell.N. and numberous condensations, with some evidnce of an absorption lane on n. side.

Sandage, A. (1961) The Hubble Atlas of Galaxies

This galaxy appears on page 34 of "The Hubble Atlas of Galaxies" by Allan Sandage (1961, Washington, DC).

Van den Bergh (1963)

Van den Bergh ("A Nearby Cluster of Galaxies", Observatory, 83, December 1963, 257) derives the distance to the cluster as 2.0 Mpc, only about three times the distance to M31. Galaxies listed are NGC 45, 55, 247, 253, 300, 7793.

Sulentic & Tifft (1973)

The RNGC (Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a 7.5 mag galaxy. Their coded description reads EL,BM,HISB,KNPCHYSTR.

Sandage & Tammann (1975)

Sandage, A. & Tammann, G. A. (1975) Steps toward the Hubble constant. V - The Hubble constant from nearby galaxies and the regularity of the local velocity field. ApJ, 196, 313-328. [1975ApJ...196..313S]

Sandage and Tammann (1975, Astrophysical Journal, 196, 313-328) includes this galaxy in the South Polar Group. Members include NGC 24, NGC 45, NGC 55, NGC 247, NGC 253, NGC 300 & NGC 7793.

de Vaucouleurs, G. (1975)

de Vaucouleurs, G. (1975) Nearby groups of galaxies. In: Kuiper, G. (ed) Stars and Stellar Systems. Volume 9: Galaxies and the Universe. Chapter 14, p557.

[Sculptor Group is the] nearest of all nearby groups [and] is a loose association of six or seven late-type spirals Sc to Sm (NGC 45, 55, 247, 253, 300, 7793, and perhaps IC 5332)...

ESO/Upps (Lauberts 1982)

The ESO/Uppsala Survey of the ESO(B) Atlas lists the magnitude as 8.04.

Laustsen, S., Madsen, C. & West, R.M. (1987)

Exploring the Southern Sky: A pictorial atlas from the European Southern Observatory. Springer-Verlag.

Scanned image on disk. [1987EtSS.........0L], plate 74.

Sanford (1989) Observing the Constellations

Sanford writes: "It is a member of the South Galactic Pole group of galaxies, which includes NGC 45, NGC 55, NGC 247, NGC 253, NGC 300, and NGC 7793. This loose grouping has been characterized as the nearest group of galaxies there is beyond the Local Group, which is centred on our Milky Way Galaxy."

Schmidt, K.-H. et al. (1993)

Schmidt K.-H., Priebe A. & Boller T. (1993) Nearby galaxies. Revised machine-readable version of the catalogue. Astron. Nachr., 314, 371. [1993AN....314..371S]

Other names: "UA13,E474-29". Inclination: (face-on, in degrees) 77 Total photoelectric blue mag 8.04 Logarithm of the angular diameter D25 (arcminutes) 2.44 Blue photographic magnitude 7.72 This galaxy is included in a sample of galaxies with velocity less than 500km/s with respect to the centroid of the Local Group. [Nearby Galaxies. Schmidt K.-H., Priebe A., Boller T. (Astron. Nachr. 314, 371 (1993))]

Photo index

Photo index by Jim Lucyk: Sky&Tel. 1/81 p23, Sky&Tel. 2/80 p115, Sky&Tel. 4/79 p359, Sky&Tel. 6/75 p403, Sky&Tel. 7/85 p33, Sky&Tel. 9/81 p216, Sky&Tel. 9/81 p219, Hubble Atl.of Gal. (Sandage 1961) p34, Vehrenberg's Atlas of DS Splendors (3ed) p22, Astronomy mag. 4/78 (cover), Astronomy mag. 4/85 p8, Astronomy mag. 10/83 p55, Burnhams V3 p1737, 1738, Universe Guide to Stars & Planets (Ridpath & Tirion) p206, Galaxies (Ferris,1982) p124, 125.


A supernova erupted in this galaxy in 1940 (14.0p)

Modern observations

Clark, R.N. (1990)

See also "Visual Astronomy of the Deep Sky" by Roger N. Clark (1990, Sky Publishing Corporation) page 74.

AJ Crayon

AJ Crayon, using an 8" f/6 Newtonian, notes: "is a very beautiful spiral galaxy. It is visible in an 8X50 finder that has a bright middle in position angle northeast. In the 8" it is 30'X10' 9m; in position angle northeast, has a very much brighter middle of 10'X7' in the same postion angle, is mottled across the entire galaxy and with many stars involved, at 100x. If ever you get a chance to see this galaxy, don't miss it! While in this constellation, don't miss out on any of the other goodies! These won't make you fat."

Walter Scott Houston

Houston calls it a "bright, highly inclined spiral that resembles NGC 55 in magnitude and size. One difference is that the illumination is more evenly distributed across the disk. Caroline Herschel discovered it while searching for comets. It stands as a tribute to her comet hunting career, since only a truly dedicated observer would search the dregs of the atmosphere as near to the horizon as NGC 253 appeared from her home in England." In 1976 he wrote: "NGC 253 is a fine spiral galaxy that appears as a bright 24'x4' oval."

Mullaney, J

Mullaney writes that is "can easily be glimpsed in binoculars and finders from northern temperate latitudes despite its southern declination. ... It is a real showpiece in 6-inch and larger telescopes."

Clarke, W.P. (1992)

William P. Clarke (San Diego, California, USA) writes in The Webb Society Nebulae and Clusters Section Report No. 10, July 1992: "Large and highly elongated galaxy with a bright nuclear region, and strong mottling throughout. A pair of 8th magnitude stars are just south of the nucleus. (10-inch f/4.5, x48)."

Steve Coe

Steve Coe, observing with a 17.5" f/4.5 at 100X, notes: "Very bright, very large, very, very elongated at 100X. Many dark lanes with swirls and rifts prominent throughout the galaxy to a somewhat brighter core. This galaxy displays lots of mottling across its' surface. It is easy in binoculars or a finderscope. Sentinel 13" 9/10--in either 10X50 or 11X80, bright, large, much elongated, somewhat brighter middle, one star on NE end and three stars on southwest end frame the galaxy. 60X with 38mm Giant Erfle-- Very bright, very large, very much elongated 4X1 in PA 45, much brighter middle, very mottled, beautiful convex lens shape, many dark markings in arms. 100X--Excellent view, stellar nucleus evident about 20% of the time, 7 stars involved, two pretty bright oval patches in southwest arm, lots of dark markings, the most mottling I have ever seen. 150X 14mm UWA--core is gradually sculptured by dark lanes, oval bright core has tiny stellar nucleus. 220X core has a fascinating pattern of light and dark markings, but no spiral structure, more like a surrealistic painting.

Sweetman, Michael E. (1992)

Michael E. Sweetman (Tucson, Arizona, USA), observing with a 12x40 binoculars, writes in The Webb Society Nebulae and Clusters Section Report No. 10, July 1992: "Easily spotted at x48. Large and bright but with hazy edges; there is no nuclkeus and only a slight increase in brightness towards the centre. Best views obtained at x102; several star-like points scattered across the image. The galaxy is elongated east-west; the extremities are faint and averted vision shows how extremely large it is. The preceding side is brighter and more well-defined; following side very hazy. Uneven brightness around the centre, which shows some mottling."

Ancient City Astron.Club (1980)

Listed by the Herschel Club, described as "extremely elongated, a band of light or streak across the eyepiece field, covering 30 arcsec across. Bright in centre, fading towards the outer rim. 8-inch, 48x."

Tom Lorenzin

Tom Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes "7M; 25'x 4' extent; very bright and large; axis oriented NE-SW; oblique view of SP GAL; great binocular object; mottling visible at >200x; good supernova prospect; photo @ HAG-34; 1.75 degrees to SE is GLOB N288."

Brian Skiff

Lu+ 1992 ApJS 83,203: two br *s (inner) V=9.28, b-y=0.40, G2V; (outer)

V=8.90, b-y=0.37, G0IV/V.

7cm - lg br spindle in pa55 @ 30x. many *s inv. 50x: WSW end of halo reaches m11 * close to maj axis; NE end reaches past m12.5(?) * that seems a little S of maj axis. extra length there ~2/3 sep of the two m8 *s off the S flank. the closer of these two *s is a smidgeon outside halo; the other side of the minor axis is marked by another m11 * on opposite side closer to core. wk-mod even concen in halo; core is mod even. core ~1/5 total length, has a few *s/*ings over it plus one non*ar spot that is prob nuc. BS, 26Nov1992, Anderson Mesa.

15cm - extraordinary object! 35'x3'.5 in pa45. 50x: reaches m13.5 * at NE end btwn T&B V=12.6 and 8.9 *s; min axis defined nicely by m11.5 * (nrly matches V=11.6 * on W side) on NW-facing flank SW of cen. *s w/in gx on either side of core are m12.0. BS, 15Nov1993, LCO.

Murrell, Andrew (IAAC)

Observer: Andrew Murrell; Your skills: Advanced (many years); Date/time of observation: ; Location of site: Ilford NSW Australia (Lat , Elev ); Site classification: Rural; Sky darkness: Limiting magnitude; Seeing: 1-10 Seeing Scale (10 best); Moon presence: None - moon not in sky; Instrument: 20" f5 dobsonian; Magnification: 160-700; Filter(s): none; Object(s): NGC253 Globular clusters; Category: Extragalactic glob.; Class:

Using an astrophisical journal artical advising the discovery of 3 globulars in NGC253, I set about trying to observe them. The globular clusters that were designated A and B are located about 16' east of the nucleus of NGC253. Both of these clusters if true members of this galaxy will be slightly more luminous than the clusters seen in the local group. A is listed as being 16.00 magnitude and B is listed as 16.83. Both of these clusters must have an absolute magnitude of greater than -10.

A was visible as a 16th mag star with direct vision at 160X. A pair of 14.5 mag stars lie 2.5' west of the cluster. B was visible with averted vision and occasionaly with direct vision about 4' further west from the 14.5 mag pair. If these are real globular clusters they are visible at over 2.5 Megaparsecs distance. Unfortunatly my globular cluster file is with an observing friend and I am unable to supply the APJ article number for referance, I will post it as soon as I can.

Wilson, Barbara

Date: Sat, 17 Jul 1999 11:43:48 -0500

From: Barbara Wilson [bwilson2@ix.netcom.com]

Lew, here are two observations of NGC253, one dates from 1986 with a 13.1" old Coulter Odyssey, and the other with my 20" from 1989 on an incredible night of transparency. The drawing I did of this galaxy with the 20 inch took over an 1.5 hours, and my written description below does not even begin to describe the detail seen. I measured the galaxy at 30' in size through the eyepiece, much larger than most descriptions I've seen. Admittedly not scientific since using a Nagler eyepiece for the measurement. But still the galaxy was huge. It was also great in my 10 x 70 finder. This galaxy is the finest for small aperture telescopes from my latitude at 29.5 north, because of the detail it exhibits. So unlike M31 which is usually disappointing to new observers, and was to me when I first observed it in a 6" newtonian many years ago. Barbara Wilson

Barbara Wilson's Herschel 400 Observations



Barbara Wilson's Herschel 400 Observations


DESCRIPTION_AND_NOTES: 6 stars superimposed (see drawing) mottled and dusty interior. Bright center is mottled. Not symmetrical. Much detail. Very long in this aperture, about 30' in length, it won't fit totally in my 13 nagler with a 30' field. Used low and high power for drawing. 6' wide. Large and easy in 10 x 70 finder. nucleus elongated oval shape. Close to edge on with about 12 degree tilt. 7.8 million light years distant.

Danie L. Cronje


Danie Cronje, observing with 10x50 binoculars, calls it "very large, bright. No prominent central brightening. Could have central bulge (?) Between 2 stars - one could be a pair of stars (?) Elongated in direction of line between 2 stars. Visible without averted vision (sky ashen grey with very little contrast.)"

Contemporary observations

Auke Slotegraaf


A 10-inch f.5 at 30x shows this as a stunning object, a very long, unevenly bright ray of light lying in a field of large and small stars. The galaxy is closely surrounded by several stars, and it appears to be jammed in between them. The most noticeable of these stars is a bright, very wide pair, lying on the south-east side of the galaxy. Because of its uneven brightness, it appears to point to the north-east; from the start of the galaxy is the south-west, it extends and gradually brightens towards the north-east, reaching an area of maximum brightness, which very abruptly and most sharply fades away unevenly further north-east. A bright star in involved at the north-eastern faded end of the galaxy, and two other small stars are seen on its surface in the brightest region.

1997 November 28

1997 November 28, Tue/Wed: Jonkershoek, seeing 3, transparency 3, sky darkness 4, lim.mag. at south pole 6.0 (naked eye) "Very elongated galaxy, wedged between stars. Brightest part is about 11 arcmin across, which is off-centre in a longer glow 22 arcmin long, mostly extended to the north-east; it doesn't grow much to the south-west of the two small stars."

2009 January 02

Sutherland (Radar Dome Quarry)

8-inch f/6 Dobsonian

Conditions: Clear, dark.

A delightful object, as always. This slash of gray light amongst bright stars is plainly visible in the 9x50 finder.

Magda Streicher

1997 November 20

Location: Pietersburg. ( South 23 53. East 29 28).

Sky conditions: Very good 7 magnitude.

Instrument: Meade 12 inch (Eyepiece super 40mm).

Date: 20 November 1997.

Field of view: 52.7 arc minutes.

A showpiece galaxy, bright and almost edge-on. Large elongated with dark knots spread all over in uneven brightness. A little brighter to the middle with two bright stars to the south in a busy starfield underline this galaxy beautifully. About 30 arc minutes in size.

(no date)

8-inch f/10 SCT (EP: 1.25-inch 26mm SP 77x 41' fov; 1.25-inch 18mm SW 111x 36' fov) and 12-inch f/10 SCT (EP: 2-inch 40mm SW 76x 53' fov; 2-inch 14mm UW 218x 23' fov)

This is a showpiece and also known as the "Silver Coin" galaxy. Bright and edge-on uneven dust streak in a southwest to northeast direction (76x). Uneven sandpaper structure with faint dark knots scatters all over the surface. It seems flimsy and woolly around the outer edge of the galaxy. It slowly gets brighter to the middle with a notable pair of bright stars to the southeast edge, which compliment this galaxy beautifully (218x). A few foreground stars are embedded on this galaxy. Very busy field of view. (Mag = 7.6v; 30.0' x 6.9'; SB = 13.2v; PA 52 deg)

Richard Ford

2013 November 3rd, Sunday



Sky Conditions:The fainter parts of the Milky Way are barely visible.Haziness only visible on the horizon.Atmosphere stable with little interference.

Instrument:12-inch Dobsonian.

This galaxy has very bright extensions which is seen edge on and that this galaxy has plenty of areas of even and uneven brightness.The galactic nucleus of this galaxy is strongly concentrated towards each other.Around the outskirts of this galaxy there are plenty of areas which are very hazy as a morning mist.This galaxy measures 19.5'x 12.1'with P.A:NE/SW.

2010 August 7, Saturday

Location:Kambro Padstal,Britstown.

Instrument:12" Dobsonian Reflector Telescope.

Sky Conditions:Dark moon and stars magnitude 6 and fainter are barely visible with the naked eye.

Transparency of the Sky:The most clear sky possible.

Seeing:Excellent clean sky,limited star flickering and brilliant objects.

Limiting Magnitude:6.5.

Galaxy is 19.5' x 1.3'.


Very Bright, Medium Surface Brightness.

A breathtaking and fantastic sight to observe this spiral galaxy in a large telescope.

This galaxy is well observed as a large spiral galaxy that is seen edge-on and it has elongated structure that is well defined.In overall I have found some areas of uneven brightness near the galaxy where some bright and faint stars are near the galaxy.No darker areas have been found within the galaxy.

Andre de la Porte

2011 December 25, Sunday

Location: Riviera, Pretoria

Time: 21:55-22:15

Telescope: Orion 10 In Dob

Limiting magnitude: 4.5

Sky conditions: Clear, Good seeing and transparancy

(25mm, 48x) Initially difficult to find. Averted vision shows more detail. Appears as a very faint streak of fuzziness. Central core marginally brighter.

It appears almost fainter in 10mm (120x). Appears as a very faint streak of fuzziness. Some indication of central core. Longer observation and averted vision reveals more detail.

Tom Bryant

2007-10-13 21:00:00

Observing site: Pinnacles overlook

Telescope: C-8

[0h 47m 36s, -25 17' 0"] A beautiful, bright oval in the sky, somewhat mottled.

2006-12-10 20:00:00

Observing site: Little Tycho Observatory

Telescope: C-8

[0h 47m 36s, -25 17' 0"] A very faint smudge in the 36x eyepiece, drowned in the light pollution.

2009 12 16 19:16:44

Observing site: Pinnacles overlook

Telescope: C-11

[0h 47m 36s, -25 17' 0"] The HII regions of the galaxy looked like an embedded star cluster. Superb

Carol Botha

2011 -12 - 07

Location:Betty's Bay

Time: 21:00

Telescope: 12" Dobsonian f4,9. Eyepiece 15mm. FOV- 36'

Sky conditions: Seeing 3/5 (intermittent high cloud cover)

Actual dimensions: 25.1'(Cartes Du Ciel)

Object description:

Spiral galaxy in Sculptor.

Not your everyday faint fuzzy. Seen edge-on, this Silver Coin almost fills the whole fov from E-W

With averted vision slightly brighter central bulging. Otherwise this looks more like an elongated uneven smudge which seems brighter to the E.

ISS-beautiful flyby through Canis Major and at the same time two tumbling Satellites in opposite direction

four relatively bright stars straddle the central region of the galaxy. One looks like a double star. To the S a bright triangle of stars and W just in fov are two very bright stars.

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