NGC 2403 -- Spiral Galaxy in Camelopardalis
The Fireworks Galaxy
Even in a small refractor this galaxy is notable. It is less visited by amateurs than it deserves
probably because it resides in the constellation of Camelopardalis (the Camel) which is
devoid of bright visual stars (or any stars if you live under any degree of light pollution). Still it
is not difficult to star-hop to this galaxy using a low-power eyepiece starting from Muscida
(Omicron Ursae Majoris -- the nose of the Great Bear).
The common name “Fireworks Galaxy” is aptly named. This galaxy has several large H II
star-forming regions that knot the galaxy in larger telescopes. Its brightest H II region even
has its own NGC number (NGC 2404). The literature has magnitude estimates for the
Fireworks Galaxy that range from 7.3 to 10.2 – my guess was around magnitude 8.
In the 110mm refractor from a local park, NGC 2403 appeared reasonably bright in the
eyepiece with a wide oval center and a mottled disk. This galaxy is easier to see than many
of the galaxies that made the Messier list. The size of the disk would swell with averted vision
and faint stars (from our galaxy) or H II regions within NGC 2403 would flick in-and-out of view.
I could never confirm that I was seeing the H II region NGC 2404, but I am going to keep it in
mind as a target when I view this impressive galaxy with a larger scope under darker skies.