Box Galaxy (NGC 4449) -- Irregular Galaxy in Canes Venatici
As if the Large Magellanic Cloud was on Fire
The Box Galaxy (NGC 4449) is a Deep Sky Object for all sized-telescopes. Even from my
suburban backyard, it shows in my 60mm f/15 achromatic refractor as a soft-elongated
glow. With each increase in telescope-size the galaxy becomes more complex in structure.
If you wish to see details in a galaxy with a moderate-sized telescope, this is your galaxy.
In large-aperture telescopes under dark skies the Box Galaxy’s make-up is down-right
complex. NGC 4449 appears brighter than its stated magnitude 9.6 rating; I think because
of the extended star forming areas. I am a bit surprised that it did not make Messier’s list.
It is listed as a Caldwell Object and as one of the Herschel 400.
In the 155mm refractor from my backyard, the Box Galaxy displays its famous box-shape.
But more impressive is that the star-forming regions light up as a string-of-bright-knots that
runs through the center of the galaxy. In the drawing, I upped the magnification a bit to
extract as much detail as I could from the center of the galaxy.
It is obvious that NGC 4449 is a “Starburst Galaxy” that is producing stars at a prodigious
rate. Why it is doing so, is more of a mystery. Current thought is that the galaxy is in the
process of consuming a smaller dwarf galaxy, that in turn, is triggering the intense star
creation. Kanepe & Webb’s “Annals of the Deep Sky -- Volume 3” points out that the Box
Galaxy is much like our own Galaxy’s Large Magellanic Cloud – minus, of course, the
extensive star formation. Viewing the Box Galaxy is like seeing the Large Magellanic
Cloud on fire!