NGC 4656 & NGC 4657 -- Barred Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici
The Hockey Stick or the Hook?
Both names are appropriate for the Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 4656/NGC 4657. The two,
New General Catalogue (NGC) names, is because one number was assigned to the shaft
(NGC 4656) and one number to the head (NGC 4657). However, it is now known that it is
a single galaxy with a hook-like appendage likely due to the interaction or consumption of
another galaxy in the distant past.
From my home with the 155mm refractor, spotting the 9.2 magnitude galaxy was not difficult,
but I could never see the dim southern extension of the galaxy, only the core of the galaxy
and its northern section containing the hook. The overall drawing was done at a magnification
of 84x, but details of the galaxy were added at 232x. Spending extra time with this galaxy
paid off for it truly does have the shape of a hook or a Hockey Stick which could easily be
missed with just a casual glance using a modest-sized telescope under suburban skies.