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NGC 2903 (6,246 of 18,816)


oc gc pln bn dn gx gxcl ast aka lost




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NGC 2903

NGC 2903, NGC 2905, LEDA 27077, MCG+04-23-009, UGC 5079, I 56, h 604, GC 1861

RA: 09h 32m 9.69s
Dec: +21° 30′ 2.7″

Con: Leo
Ch: MSA:686, U2:143, SA:6


(reference key)

Type: galaxy, Sb/Sc

Mag: B=9.8, V=?

Size: 12.58′ x 5.495′
PA: 17°

Image gallery

Photos  (2)

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History and Accurate Positions for the NGC/IC Objects (Corwin 2004)

NGC 2903. See NGC 2905.


This bright spiral lies 1.5 degrees south of Lambda Leonis, near the tip of the Sickle. In the NGC it is described as "considerably bright, very large, extended, gradually much brighter in the middle, mottled, south preceding of 2" The other object is NGC 2905. In fact, these are not two separate galaxies, as photographs show them to be part of a single spiral galaxy, elongated with its major axis nearly northsouth. NGC 2903 seems distinctly oval, but not as prominently as the catalogue dimensions of 11' x 5'. It shines at magnitude 8.9, and is visible in finders. Many consider this object the sky's best non-Messier object.

Historical observations

William Herschel (c.1784)

Synonyms: H I-056

Discovered in 1784 by William Herschel with an 18.7-inch f/13 speculum telescope. He called it "Two, at 1' distance. Both cB cL, appears like one much elongated."

Lassell, W. (1866)

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

Sketched and described.

Published comments

Doig, P. (1925)

Doig, P. (1925) Notes on the nebulae and clusters in Webb's 'Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes' (Sixth edition, Vol.ii). Part II. M.N.R.A.S., 35(8), 280.

Bailey, S.I. (1908)

"! nebula, spiral, bright nucleus"

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

Sulentic & Tifft (1973)

The RNGC (Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a 10.0 mag galaxy. Their coded description reads S,LG,B,2VDIF OWDARMS.

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

This galaxy appears on page 35 of "The Hubble Atlas of Galaxies" by Allan Sandage (1961, Washington, DC).

Ashbrook, J. (1968)

Astronomical Scrapbook: Spiral structure in galaxies. Sky&Telescope, June, 366.

Hodge, P.W. (1972)

Hodge, P.W. (1972) Some current studies of galaxies. Sky&Telescope, July, 23.

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: "N2905,U5079". Inclination: (face-on, in degrees) 56 Total photoelectric blue mag 9.68 Total colour index .67 Logarithm of the angular diameter D25 (arcminutes) 2.10 Blue photographic magnitude 9.60 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))]

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.

p 590: "The present data on nearby groups may nevertheless help to answer the simpler question:Are there isolated galaxies? ... out of the 60 galaxies in this objectively selected sample, only eight have not been associated with one of the 55 nearby groups, viz. NGC 404, NGC 1313, NGC 2903, NGC 3109, NGC 3521, NGC 6744, NGC 6946 & IC 5152. In addition there is a possibility that a few galaxies, such as NGC 1316, NGC 4594, NGC 4826 are not really members of the groups (For I, Vir Y, CVn I) to which they have been tentatively assigned. Furthermore, the reality of the NGC 5128 chain as a physical unit may be questionable; but then it is difficult to know where to stop in this 'dismemberment' of loose groups, and the local outcome of an overconservative attitude would be to exclude from consideration all but a few rich clusters and dense groups... on the other hand, several of the eight supposedly isolated galaxies might yupon further investigation turn out to be members of some of the nearer groups; in particular, NGC 404, NGC 3109 and IC 1512 should be examined for possible membership in the Local Group. Other (more remote) possibilities are NGC 1569, IC 342 and perhaps some heavily obscured systems as yet unrecognized. For example, IC 10, although long suspected, was only recently established as a Local Group member (Roberts 1962, de Vaucouleurs and Ables 1965). ... to the writer's knowledge, NGC 1313 and NGC 6744 in the southern sky, and probably NGC 2903 and NGC 6946 in the northern sky, are truly isolated galaxies not associated with any nearby group, although both are in the larger Local Supercluster."

Photo index

by Jim Lucyk: The Astrograph 4-5/83 p78, The Astrograph 6-7/88 p89, Sky&Tel. 3/80 p266 (sketch by J. Herschel), Burnhams V2 p1081, Sky&Tel. 3/61 p163, Sky&Tel. 4/87 p459, Sky&Tel. 5/87 p459, Sky&Tel. 5/87 p540, Sky&Tel. 12/86 p565, Observer's Guide (Astro Cards) 3-4/88, Astronomy mag. 6/83 p84, Deep Sky Monthly 3/81 p2 & cover, Vehrenberg's Atlas of DS Splendors (3ed) p98, 99, Hubble Atl.of Gal. (Sandage 1961) p35, Rev.Shapley-Ames Cat.of Bright Gal. (Sandage,Tammann 1981) p101, Astronomy mag. 12/87 p11.

Modern observations

Walter Scott Houston

Notes that this galaxy has dark lanes and bright inner spiral arms, which might explain why earlier observers saw it as two objects. At 8th mag, it measures 11.5' x 8.5'.

Houston reports that B. Goszka of New Jersey, using a home-built 20-inch f/5.6, could not see this galaxy at 90x. At 177x it was visible with averted vision and could be held steadily at 237x.

Ancient City Astron.Club (1980)

described as "very large and slightly faint. Quite elongated, a streak or needle-like in appearance, easy to see though. 6-inch, 35x."

Hartung, E.J. (1968) Astron.Obj.South.Tel

Notes that "30cm shows a very hazy indefinite ellipse about 5' x 3', concentrating much to a bright lengthened centre . . the nucleus seems closer to the following edge. 10.5cm shows a faint elongated haze in the black field."

Steve Coe

Coe, observing with a 12.5-inch f/6 reflector at 175x saw a very mottled disk. Since this galaxy has many pockets of glowing HII areas, Coe might have resolved them. If so, they should stand out more prominently with nebular filters.

Steve Coe, in "SACNEWS On-Line for April 1996", using a 12.5" f/6, notes: NGC 2903 is one of the best non-Messier galaxies. It is easy in my 10x50 binocs or a large finder scope. At 175X in the 12.5" f/6 this galaxy is bright and is mottled across the face with a much brighter core. There is a bright spot about 4 arc minutes from the core. It is at 9 hr 32.2 min and +21 30.

Tom Lorenzin

Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes: "9.7M; 11' x 4.7' extent; bright, big and beautiful with brighter center! axis oriented NE-SW; !good supernova prospect! see photo at HAG-35; try it with binoculars aimed 1.5 degrees due S of Alterf (Lambda LEO)."

Ware, Donald J

:"Large and relatively bright, this galaxy appears to be about 8'x4', extended NNE-SSW, with a large, 1'x1' core. Some mottling is noticeable, and a darker area was noted on the western side."

Mitsky, Dave (IAAC)

(e-mail: djm28@psu.edu)

Instrument: 20-inch other Location: Harrisburg, Pa, U.S.A.

Light pollution: light Transparency: poor Seeing: excellent

Time: Tue Apr 29 00:45:00 1997 UT Obs. no.: 123

Despite high clouds we were able to do a little deep-sky observing on 4/29 (4/30 UT). Through some occasional sucker holes we observed the ninth magnitude spiral galaxy NGC 2093 south of Lambda Leonis. This Herschel 400 object is fairly large and elongated (11.0' x 4.6'). We used a 40mm Orion UltraScan (127x), a 32mm Tele Vue Wide Field and a 27mm Tele Vue Panoptic (188x) to view NGC 2903. We also viewed the "Leo Trio" of M65, M66 and NGC 3628 using the 27mm, which produced quite excellent images of these spiral galaxies.

Brian Skiff

7x35mm - fairly f, brtr *ar center. oval elong ~N-S. BS, 29Apr1992, TSP.

7cm - br lg oval w/sharp nuc @ 30x. 75x: distinctly but wkly mottled oval, reaches out to m11 * SW of center. vsm br oval core and *ar nuc consp w/averted vis. main body 2/3 total length, vf outside this region. [sketch of *s in notes] BS, 12Apr1992, Anderson Mesa.

15cm - 4'x2', somewhat brtr twd middle. br patch on the S end and grainy overall. fairly f but seen well w/averted vis @ 76x. BS, 19Jan1971, FtL.

Ed Finlay

1992 May 3

Finlay, observing with 10x50 binoculars from Johannesburg, 1992 May 3, calls it "a barely discernable fuzzy point of light; a possible sighting."

Contemporary observations

Magda Streicher

(no date)

Alldays (22.50S, 20.12E, 770m).

12-inch f/10 SCT (218x, 346x)

Very faint, large defused elongate in a north to south direction. The east of this galaxy more bulgy with dark areas visible and a sudden star like nucleus. The brightest star 11Magnitude associate with the galaxy is on the SE tip part. One of the best not known Messier galaxies. Averted let it grow as a lovely haze larger than one thought 11'.

Richard Ford

2010 May,15 Saturday


Instrument:12"Dobsonian Reflector Telescope.

Sky Conditions:The fainter parts of the Milky Way are barely visible.

Transparency of the Sky:Haziness only visible on the horizon.

Seeing:Atmosphere stable with little interference.

Limiting Magnitude:4.9.

First Impression:Galaxy.



Chart Number:No.4(Extract taken out of "Atlas of the Night Sky").

Size:26mm Eyepiece:Field Of View:57'/9=6.3'.

20mm Eyepiece:Field Of View:50'/8=6.2'.



Size in Arc Minutes:6.2'.


Brightness Profile:Low Surface Brightness.

Challenge Rating:A fantastic sight to observe this galaxy in a large telescope under very dark skies.



This galaxy is easily observed with an oval and well defined

with spiral-like structure.This galaxy is observed as a large spiral galaxy.Some spiral-like structure in noticeable on the outskirts of this galaxy.In overall most of this spiral-like structure is difficult to observe.The spiral arms is vaguely

visible in this galaxy.This galaxy has surface areas of uneven brightness.Although the central outskirts of this galaxy has areas of uneven brightness which suggests that there are some dust lanes in this galaxy.The central nucleus of this galaxy has a slight uneven brightness appearance.I have found a few faint 4th to 9th magnitude stars in the vicinity of this galaxy.

Tom Bryant

2011 6 3 22:0:45

Observing site: Little Bennett Regional Park

Telescope: C-11

[9h 32m 12s, 21 31m 0s] A tiny, bright nucleus (12.5mv) surrounded by a large elliptical envelope. This is another description of N 2905. N 2903 is a bright HII region in N 2905.

2007-03-18 10:30:00

Observing site: Pinnacles overlook

Telescope: C-8

[9h 32m 12s, 21 30m 0s] C-8 @ 80x: Large, bright, with a mottled envelope, bright nucleus, and somewhat abrupt edge. Lovely!

2010 4 10 21:48:01

Observing site: Little Bennett Regional Park

Telescope: C-11

[9h 32m 12s, 21 30m 0s] 2903 is a nice, tilted Sb or Sc? 2905 was not seen. (2905 is a part of 2903).

Auke Slotegraaf

2012 February 18, Saturday

Location: Paardeberg (ASSA Cape Centre dark sky site)[33:34.4S, 18:51.3E]

Time: 23:45 SAST

Binocs: 15x70 Celestron

A neat round glow, even light distribution, quite faint but spotted readily while sweeping. With averted vision it is about 6' in diameter. Makes a rectangle (25'x14') with three 7.5 .. 9th mag stars and is easy to find, in the same binocular field as, and to the south-west of, Algenubi (epsilon Leonis).

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The Messier objects

Dunlop's catalogue

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The Caldwell list

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