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NGC 4038 (8,655 of 18,816)


oc gc pln bn dn gx gxcl ast aka lost




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The Antennae (NGC 4038)

NGC 4038, LEDA 37967, ESO 572-47, MCG-03-31-014, Arp 244, Caldwell 60, Ring Tail, The Antennae, IV 28, h 1052, GC 2670

RA: 12h 01m 52.95s
Dec: −18° 52′ 7.1″

Con: Corvus
Ch: MSA:846, U2:328, SA:21


(reference key)

Type: galaxies (interacting), SBm

Mag: B=10.9, V=10.3

Size: 7.762′ x 3.801′
PA: 94°

Image gallery

Photos  (6)

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Ring tail name by Shapley, H. & Paraskevopoulos, J.S. (1940), p35. [1940PNAS...26...31S]

This spiral-type galaxy, also known as Arp 244A, is interacting with NGC 4039. The grouping lies in Corvus and is known as the Antennae or the Ring-tail. This is the brighter companion (mag 11.3) and measures 8' on photographs.

Historical observations

William Herschel (c.1784)

Synonyms: H IV-028

Discovered in 1785 by William Herschel with an 18.7-inch f/13 speculum telescope. He called it "pB, L, opening with a branch, or two nebulae very faintly joined. The southern is smallest."

Published comments

Helwan Obs. Bulletin No 21 (1920)

pF, 2.5'x2.5', single branched spiral, shaped like the letter C. No nucleus, otherwise like NGC 4027 only reversed though 180degrees. Many condensations along the arm.

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 4038is an open spiral. [previously included in Class II-Spindle-shaped Nebulae]

Shapley, H. & Paraskevopoulos, J.S. (1940)

Galactic and Extragalactic Studies, III. Photographs of thirty southern nebulae and clusters. Proc. N.A.S., 26, 31-36.


erupted in this galaxy in 1974 (15.5p)

Photo index

by Jim Lucyk: Sky&Tel. 4/79 p410, Sky&Tel. 5/85 p475, Astronomy mag. 4/85 p78, Deep Sky #9 Wi84 p8, Burnhams V2 p720-721, Ast.Obj.for South.Tel. (Hartung, 1984), Universe Guide to Stars & Planets (Ridpath & Tirion) p126, Galaxies (Ferris,1982) p142.

Arp (1966)

Together with NGC 4039 listed as No. 244 in Arp's "Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies" (Astrophysical Journal Supplement, vol. 14, 1966.)

van den Bergh, S. (1961)

Van den Bergh (1961, Astronomical Journal, Vol 66, p566) notes that this galaxy forms a pure pair with NGC 4039 1.2 arcminutes away.

Notes that this galaxy could be a radio source. He remarks: "Colliding supergiant spiral in a small very open cluster."

Sulentic & Tifft (1973)

The RNGC (Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a 10.5 mag galaxy. Their coded description reads HISB,IRR,KNY,DIFAPPP.

Modern observations

Walter Scott Houston

Houston writes: "Skilled deep-sky observers Ronald Morales described that pair as looking like a little shrimp, and I think others will agree . . . the system is about 2.5' in diameter and 11th magnitude. It's easily visible in my 4-inch Clark as an asymmetrical 11th mag blur, and I can easily make out the unusual shape though a 10-inch reflector. I once had a particularly good view of it with a friend's 12-inch reflector .. NGC 4038 showed a wealth of internal structure." He notes that "Pedro Cavanna of Norfolk, Connecticut, could just see the tail with his 10-inch reflector at 133x. He notes that the galaxy's appearance became better at higher powers until the image began to loose structure at 200x."

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

Hartung writes: "These .. nebulae, each about 2.5' long, are inclined 40 and in contact following. Both are broadly but not brightly luminous with little central condensation and a 6-inch is needed to show the forms well. This pair is very similar in appearance to NGC 4567-8 on the northern edge of Virgo, but is larger and better placed for southern observers."

Bahr-Vollrath, Gerd (1992)

Gerd Bahr-Vollrath (Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia) observing with an 8-inch f/12 SCT, writes in The Webb Society Nebulae and Clusters Section Report No. 10, July 1992: "Two small, oval, mottled glows which seem almost to touch. The northern object [NGC 4038] is distinctly brighter and shows intense mottling, showing interesting detail at high powers. The two faint extensions that give the galaxy pair its name did not show."

Tom Lorenzin

Tom Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes: "11M; 2.5' diameter; has extension to S designated N4039; 14.5M star on NW edge; the celestial "COMMA"; reference: BCH-II-720."

Ware, Donald J

:"The Ring Tail or Antennae Galaxy. This fascinating object is actually two interacting galaxies which have been greatly distorted by gravitational forces. A telescope shows a curving arc about 3' in length and about 2' at its widest point. Oriented N-S, it looks like a bulging crescent and is brighter on the northern end."

Brian Skiff

Ferris: pair 12" sep in pa55, 6'.2 ESE. f * E @ 3'.3 E. * NW @ 1'.6.

15cm - lg, br, circ. 2'.5 diam w/o much concen to center. 5'.75 SE of m8 *. 90x.

25cm - ah! dbl system. semicirc outline like a cashew, 2'.5 diam total. N lobe brtr (-38). bridge arcs around E semicircle to -39. seems to be a * on S side of -38 or poss its *ar nuc. 180x. (sketch in notes)

30cm - -38 is a little brtr and lgr. elong in pa100, w/convex Nrn perimeter and trailing ends, partic the Ern one. a m13.8 * lies 1' NW. the pair is in pa20. -39 is inclined twd -38 in pa80. -38 is irreg concen w/two lg condens. much irreg haze is assoc. E is f *, then f 10" pair.

Steve Coe

Steve Coe, using a 13" f/5.6, notes: "Pretty bright, pretty large, irregularly round and somewhat brighter in the middle at 100X. Going to higher powers reveals some of the bizarre nature of this extraordinary galaxy pair. The "shrimp" or "comma" shape of the two interacting galaxies is evident at 165X and 220X. There are several small dark features seen and the entire galaxy pair is very mottled, almost like a sponge, at high power."

Sanford (1989) Observing the Constellations

Telescopically the grouping looks "like a doughnut with a bite taken out of it," says Sanford. "It has fairly high surface brightness, so is interesting in any scope with an aperture of 6-inches and upwards."

Steve Gottlieb

Southern galaxies from Australia

[amastro] posting, Apr 30, 2008

12 01 52.9 -18 52 08

V = 10.3; Size 5.2x3.1; Surf Br = 13.1; PA = 80d

24" (4/10/08): this was an amazing object in the 24" at 350x. The main, bright northern component (N4038) was partially annular, with a very bright knotty rim and a darker center giving a truly unique appearance for a galaxy. At least 3 knots were visible embedded along its rim. On the south side is the brightest knot which appeared faint, small, ~12" diameter. A second fainter knot is on the SW side and was only ~6" in size. Finally, a third very faint 6" knot is on the N side. The three knots were roughly spaced out 120 apart along the outer portion of this tortured galaxy. Attached on the east end is a long "tail" or arm (interacting companion N4039) that curves around on the south side towards the southwest. Another very faint, but slightly larger 20" knot is embedded along the main portion of the tail roughly halfway along its length. At the tip of the main tail was a relatively large, brighter knot that at times appeared double. Surrounding the SW portion of the tail is a much fainter outer halo extended SW-NE. This fainter halo extends beyond the tail for a few arc minutes and widens to a bulbous shape at the end. This was by far the most detailed view I've seen of the Ring- tail galaxy. Another disturbed galaxy, N4027, lies SW.

Contemporary observations

Magda Streicher

1 Feb 2008

NGC 4038 & 4039 CORVUS add

Merging Galaxies

Tel: 12" S/C 76x - 218x - Date: 1 Feb 2008 Site: Alldays - good

This twin lobbed merging galaxies is quite impressive in there appearance. The larger northern galaxy NGC 4038 bulge out in a more round-dish shape towards the west. The nucleus is much brighter towards the middle, The southern member NGC 4039 is smaller and slightly thinner, well connect with NGC 4038 towards the east and been hold in the cradle of NGC 4038 belly. The light of the smaller member is more even spread over the surface. Both grow slightly apart on the west, which I recall in my mind as the bleeding heart impression.

Richard Ford

2010 February 14,Sunday


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.

First Impression:Galaxy.



Chart Number:No.11(Extract taken out of "Atlas of the Night Sky").

Size:26mm Eyepiece:Field Of View:57'/13=4.3'.

20mm Eyepiece:Field Of View:50'/12=4.1'.



Size in Arc Minutes:4.2'.


Brightness Profile:Low Surface Brightness.

Challenge Rating:Difficult to observe in a small telescope but well seen in a large telescope.



Both NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 are two galaxies joined to each other like an antennae. By observing these two galaxies,I have found that this galaxy has an irregular appearance in outlook.This galaxy is well defined and that it does not have a galactic nucleus.Close to the vicinity of this galaxy there are some bright individual stars within the vicinity of this galaxy.In this galaxy there are plenty of darker areas within the outskirts of this galaxy.I have found areas of uneven brightness readily noticeable on the outskirts of this galaxy.

Tom Bryant

2009-04-17 22:30:00

Observing site: Pinnacles overlook

Telescope: C-11

[12h 1m 54s, -18 52' 0"] With 4039, the "antenna" galaxies in Corvus. No sign of the faint "antenna", but the galaxies themselves showed a wealth of mottled detail, and looked much like their pictures.

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