NGC 253 -- Spiral Galaxy in Sculptor
NGC 253 -- A Pathetic View of a Magnificent Galaxy
NGC 253 (aka Great Sculptor Galaxy, Silver Coin Galaxy, Silver Dollar Galaxy) is just too low in
the night sky (declination -25 degrees 17 minutes) for it to be enjoyed from Central Maryland.
About the only real justification for looking for it was to see if I could see it at all, in the small
refractor. As NGC 253 rubbed against the southern horizon at Alpha Ridge Park I was pleased
that I found it.
NGC 253 is the brightest member of the Sculptor Group of Galaxies and is a starburst galaxy
(has highly active star formation). It is a show-case Deep Sky Object when observed from the
Equatorial Region or the Southern Hemisphere. My best views of NGC 253 were from Australia
with an observatory-quality 16-inch reflector where the star-forming HII regions within this spiral
galaxy were breath taking. On my once annual trips to observe at Haleakala National Park on
Maui (Hawaii), I could make out detail within its spiral arms even in my small 85mm refractor.
On one exceptional night at 10,000 feet at Haleakala I was able to see this galaxy without
optical aid. At 9.8 million light years it is the furthest object I have seen with just my eyes.
From Alpha Ridge Park using the 110mm refractor only the small central area of NGC 253 could
be seen. In reality, the galaxy extends beyond the two bright stars to the lower left of the galaxy to
just below the bright star at the upper right of the galaxy in my drawing. I was only able to catch
the central part of the galaxy and within that no real details.
Still, I consider viewing the Great Sculptor Galaxy from Maryland a big success. It is the most
southern object on the Caldwell-list (#65) that I have seen from Central Maryland.