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NGC 55 (161 of 18,816)


oc gc pln bn dn gx gxcl ast aka lost




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String of Pearls

NGC 55, Dunlop 507, IC 1537, ESO 293-50, LEDA 1014, MCG-07-01-013, SGC 001238-3929.9, Bennett 1, Caldwell 72, h 2315, GC 27, String of Pearls

RA: 00h 14m 53.9s
Dec: −39° 11′ 55″

Con: Sculptor
Ch: MSA:430, U2:386, SA:18

Ref: SIMBAD, Skiff20080430-s

(reference key)

Type: galaxy, Sc

Mag: B=8.22, V=?

Size: 26.91′ x 5.37′
PA: 108°

Image gallery

Sketches  (2)

Select a sketch and click the button to view

Photos  (8)

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

NGC 55. See IC 1537.

Historical observations

Dunlop, James (1827)

James Dunlop discovered it from Paramatta, New South Wales, and included it as No. 507 in his catalogue of 1827. Using a 9-inch f/12 telescope, he described it as "a beautiful long nebula, about 25 arcseconds in length; position N.p. and S.f., a little brighter towards the middle, but extremely faint and diluted to the extremeties. I see several minute points or stars in it, as it were through the nebula: the nebulous matter of the south extremity is extremely rare, and of a delicate bluish hue. This is a beautiful object." Dunlop sketched the galaxy and observed it on four occasions.

John Herschel

Sir John Herschel studied it at the Cape of Good Hope with an 18-inch f/13 speculum telescope. His first observation of it, on 3 May 1834, was recorded as "bright; very large; very much elongated in a long irregular train, the preceding end being much the brightest. Whole length = 1.5 diam. of field, or 22' The nucleus is either a double star or a much more sharply terminated nebulous mass, elongated in a different position (146.5 ) from that of the nebula (109.8 )." He observed it again on 23 October 1835, recording it as "very bright; very large; very much elongated; at least 25' long and 3' broad. The following part is Faint, the preceding and shorter trinuclear the 2d, nucleus taken. A strange object." His final observation, on 4 October 1836 reads: "very bright, very large; a very long irregular crooked ray with 3 nuclei, the second of which appears to consist of stars." His sketch of the galaxy was executed with his usual immaculate attention to detail, clearly showing its convoluted form and three brighter sections. In his discussion, he grouped it together with the galaxy NGC 300 and the star cluster NGC 1950 as "nebulae of irregular forms having a tendency to several centres of condensation; in the case of [NGC 1950] but little conspicuous - in that of [NGC 55] (otherwise remarkable for its extravagent length and crooked shape) much more so, while in [NGC 300], the formation of separate nuclei is decided, the intermediate faint nebula barely sufficing to mark them as forming a connected system."

Ellery, R.L.J. (1885) Melbourne Observations

Recorded in "Observations of the Southern Nebulae made with the Great Melbourne Telescope".

See the discussion of Lithograph M.1.2 for the details.

NGC/IC Dreyer (1888, 1895, 1908)

The NGC calls it "very bright, very large, very much elonated, tri-nuclear".

See also IC 1537.

Published comments

Bailey, S.I. (1908)

"Dunlop 507 !! nebula, elongated at 110° 24'x3', several stars and nuclei involved."

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

Remarks, p.216: "A remarkable object, similar in many respects to NGC 6618 (plate III, fig 32). It is well shown on A3340 but is better shown with a long exposure. The nebula has several condensations or nuclei, and is relatively bright for a distance of about 10', but fainter extensions are visible, especially in a south following direction."

Helwan Obs. Bulletin No 9 (1912)

"very large elongated spiral 25' x 3' very bright at p end, fainter at f end; no obvious nucleus, but several nebulous stars involved, one double."

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.

de Vaucouleurs, G. (1956)

"Survey of bright galaxies south of -35° declination", Mem. Mount Stromlo, No. 13. On photos taken with the 30-inch Reynolds reflector, 20-inch diaphragm: bright inner part 24' x 3.5', faint outer regions 30' x 6'. Remarks: extremely remarkable, asymmetrical, absorption features, emmission nebulae.

Burbidge & Burbidge (1961)

Burbidge, E.M. & Burbidge, G.R. (1961) Recent investigations of groups and clusters of galaxies. Astron.J., 66(10), 541. NGC 55 Group

Van den Bergh (1963)

("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)

(Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a 8.0 mag galaxy. Their coded description reads VB&LG,EL,B ATNPR END KNS & DKPCHS.

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]

(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)...

Corwin et al. (1985) South. Gal. Cat

The Southern Galaxy Catalogue (1985, Corwin, de Vaucouleurs & de Vaucouleurs) notes: "over-exposed bar, well resolved, many faint knots. IC 1537 is following part of galaxy."

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 76.

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: "E293-50". Inclination: (face-on, in degrees) 84 Total photoelectric blue mag 8.42 Total colour index .55 Logarithm of the angular diameter D25 (arcminutes) 2.51 Blue photographic magnitude 8.29 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))]

Burnham's Celestial Handbook

Burnham notes that a good 10-inch reflector begins to show noticeable mottling across the body of the galaxy, while large telescopes reveal great numbers of individual stars, emission nebulosities, and dark dust clouds; supergiant stars begin to appear in large numbers at about mag 18.4. Near the centre of the main mass, a little to the east of the nucleur region, a very prominent and sharp-edged dust cloud may be seen; smaller masses of this type are scattered across the star clouds of the galaxy. NGC 55 does not, however, show any definite equitorial dust lane..."

Photo index

by Jim Lucyk: Sky&Tel. 2/77 p101, Sky&Tel. 11/81 p409, Sky&Tel. 5/88 p481, Astronomy mag. 10/83 p56, Burnhams V3 p1735.

Modern observations

Steve Coe

Steve Coe, in "SACNEWS On-line for November 1996" notes: NGC 55 is bright, very, very large and very, very elongated at 100X. It is visible in the 50mm finder. At 100X it is longer than the 40' field of view. There are several H II regions involved, a UHC filter helps a lot on these gaseous nebulae in another galaxy. The nucleus is stellar at high power and some mottling is glimpsed. It is at 0hr 15min and -39 11.

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

Hartung notes: ".. A 12-inch shows a bright, remarkably elongated spindle 25' x 2.5' in PA 70 , asymmetric with very bright preceding region knotted or curdled and a long following region mottled and less bright. A four-inch telescope shows the brighter lengthened central part and the spindle shape is clear".

Tom Lorenzin

Tom Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes the magnitude as 7.8 and comments: "25'x 4' extent; very bright and large with axis oriented WNW-ESE; asymmetrical brightness with W portion brighter; mottling visible with larger aperture; easily visible in large binoculars; good supernova prospect."

Walter Scott Houston

Houston notes that NGC 55 "is visually bright, and I estimate its total magnitude to be about 7.6. Most observers see this nearly edge-on galaxy as a narrow oval that brightens at its western end. The apparent length of NGC 55 depends on atmospheric conditions, and small telescopes can reveal 20' to 25', but it is possibly twice this size. Under good conditions, NGC 55 is visible in binoculars. While travelling in Central America I turned my 4-inch rich-field reflector to this galaxy and could see mottling all along its length. At home in Connecticut, however, its a different story; I feel grateful just to see it with my 4-inch Clark refractor. Even so, on exceptional nights I've glimpsed some mottling with a 4-inch off-axis reflector. In some respects, NGC 55 reminds me of the better known, but smaller, M82 in Ursa Major."

Wilson, Barbara

Barbara Wilson, observing it from Columbus, Texas, under good seeing on a very transparent night, wrote: "Using the 13.1 inch [at 115x with the galaxy 18 degrees above the horizon], NGC 55 appears very large, extremely elongated, very mottled, slightly tilted, very bright, however east end fades rapidly." She viewed it again from the same site with a 17.5-inch scope: "A long streak narrower at one end with mottling in the central region visible at 97x. It fills the 0.52 degree field of a 21mm eyepiece. Incredible! Spiral almost edge on, extremely bright, dimmer [east] end seen easily as it fades into the sky background, it is wider, but of lower brightness, than west end."

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: "A highly elongated streak with uneven surface brightness. It is brighter at the N.p. end. Major axis is elongated in about PA 100-110 degrees (10-inch f/4.5, x48)."

AJ Crayon

AJ Crayon, using an 8" f/6 Newtonian, notes: "is a barred spiral galaxy that is 20'X10' 11m, in position angle east, the west side very gradually very much brighter and a 12m star to south is attached, at 80X. "

Brian Skiff

15cm - 50x: 30'x3'.5 in pa110; core 5'x2' tilted sl wrt maj axis (i.e. in pa120). 80x: br *ar knots at SE end of core get strong UHC enhancement, mod-strong w/[OIII]. these show as "dbl *" in pa135. third * or HII region immed W making line of of three. ESE of core is lgr br patch 1' across that gets mild UHC enhancement. detached br patch ESE (I1537) is consp. 140x: core unusually detailed w/*ings, dk patches, and sub*ar knots. WNW end rel smooth-textured, while core and I1537 vclumpy. needs drawing to begin to ascribe details. schematic sketch in notes showing extent of halo wrt to fld *s. BS, 14Nov1993, LCO.

Contemporary observations

Auke Slotegraaf


A 15.5-inch telescope shows this galaxy as very much elongated, about 21' across, easy to see, with field stars lying parallel to the body of the galaxy. A definite nucleus is present, which is elongated and contains two brighter knots.

1997 September 21

1997-09-21, Sutherland (Karoo), SAAO plateau. 11x80 tripod-mounted binoculars. Skies good; some thin cloud. Very easy to find about 5° from the naked-eye Alpha and Kappa Phoenicis. Appears as a 30 arcmin long streak, which has a brighter condensed portion off-set to one end (west?) in the ratio faint : brighter : faint = 1 : 1 : 3. Thus, the brighter area is a strip one-fifth the total length of the galaxy; the faint extension to the west is about the same size, but a three times longer portion of faint light extends east away from the brighter nucleus.

1997 September 29

1997-09-29: 6-inch f/8.6 Newtonian at 52x: Franschoek Pass lay-by, 21:30, This galaxy is very much elongated, and consists of three parts; bright : very bright : dim, with the 'very bright" part being the 'nucleus'. This nucleus is elongated in the ratio 1 to 3. Overall, the galaxy's length is 1 : 1 : 3.

1997 October 09

1997-10-09, 02:30, 11x80, Jonkershoek, seeing 3, transparency 3, darkness 5 "Long straight ray of light. Lies to the west of a noticeable row of 3 bright stars, pointing to it."

1997 October 27

1997-10-27: Jonkershoek, seeing 3, transparency 3, sky darkness 4, lim.mag. at south pole 6.0 (naked eye), 10.7 (binoculars). 11x80 tripod-mounted. "Beautiful, large (16 arcmin) delicate ray, elongated 1:5, condensed to the west of centre."

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.

The galaxy resembles a bright large uneven pencil like edge-on galaxy and running out thinly with mottled areas. Expanding forever with the western part definitely brighter. A few stars taking side to the south east of the galaxy which expands about 35 arc minutes in size.

2006 August 18

Alldays, 12-inch f/10 SCT (76x, 218x, 346x)

What is there more to say but just this is one wonderful galaxy to observed. Very much elongated in an ESE-WNW direction. The core is bright and outstanding and spans more or less a quarter of the whole impression. It gets very bright to the core-middle part, which seems to be off center to the WNW. It shows some structure down the southeastern part, and a few faint stars with averted vision. The galaxy give me the impression of a shuttle with its plume of smoke just cut of from the main body. If I measure it against the star field it could easily be 30' in diameter. Will sketch this one.

(no date)

12-inch f/10 SCT (EP: 2-inch 40mm SW 76x 53' fov; 2-inch 14mm UW 218x 23' fov)

Very elongated, bright and easy to locate. The galaxy resembles a bright large uneven pencil, in a northwest to southeast direction. This showpiece runs out thinly with mottled areas and faint knots (218x) that cause the light to be unevenly distributed. Expanding forever, with the western part definitely brighter, which indicates that the core is off centre or so to speak. Stars visible on the south east of the galaxy. This is a beautiful object. James Dunlop is fortunate enough to be the discoverer of this galaxy. He recorded it as a beautiful long nebula, about 25' arc minutes in length, position Np and Sf a little brighter towards the middle, but the extremity is extremely rare, and of a delicate bluish hue.

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 large galaxy has both very bright extensions which is seen edge on at 75x while the one extension of this galaxy is broken in half separating the other bright piece at the end of this galaxy.The galactic nucleus of this galaxy is very fuzzy and that there are areas of uneven brightness mixed together with some areas of even brightness around this galaxy.This galaxy measures 39.8'x 23.4'with P.A:ESE/WNW.

2011 October, 29th Saturday


Instrument:12-inch Dobsonian Reflector Telescope.

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

Transparency Of The Sky:Haziness only visible on the horizon.

Seeing:Atmosphere stable with little interference.

Limiting Magnitude:4.9.

NGC 55


Object Type:Galaxy.

First Impression:This object looks like a galaxy.



Chart Number:No.14(Extract taken out of "Atlas of the Night Sky").

Size:26mm Eyepiece:Field Of View:57'/3= 19'.

20mm Eyepiece:Field Of View:50'/2.5= 20'.

19'+ 20'= 39'.

39'/2= 19.5'.

Size In Arc Minutes: 19.5'.


Major Axis:19.5'.

19.5'/5= 3.9'.

Minor Axis:3.9'.

Galaxy is 19.5'* 3.9'.

Position Angle(P.A.):West North West/East South East.

Brightness:Magnitude 8.2.

Brightness Profile:From the far outskirts of this galaxy the nucleus grows brighter compared to the spiral arms.

Challenge Rating:Difficult.



This galaxy is seen as a large spiral galaxy with two bright arms of dust which is seen edge on and the galactic nucleus of this galaxy is oval and well defined.Around the bright arms of this galaxy some darker areas of uneven brightness are observed.

Tom Bryant

2009 12 16 19:13:40

Observing site: Pinnacles overlook

Telescope: C-8

[0h 14m 54s, -39° 11' 0"] A large, mottled streak in the sky.

2006-09-17 21:00:00

Observing site: Pinnacles overlook

Telescope: C-8

[0h 14m 54s, -39° 11' 0"] A large, uniformly bright streak. Impressive.

Carol Botha

2012- 06 -07

Location:Betty's Bay

Time: 22:30

Telescope: 12” Dobsonian – f4,9. Eyepiece 15mm. FOV- 36’

Sky conditions: Seeing 4/5

Object description:

Galaxy in Sculptor

Seen edge-on. Bright streak in the sky elongated NW –SE, stretching the whole fov. Seems brighter to the N and a bit duller and fuzzier to the S. No structural dark lanes visible. I could see no pronounced bulge in the center. Stars overlying the galaxy form a reversed question mark .The half-circle group to the SE and a pair of stars to the north are quite bright. Two very faint stars lie on the western rim of this bright streak.

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