NGC 2903 = NGC 2905 -- Spiral Galaxy in Leo
The Lion’s Breath
Cold winter nights can bring clear skies over my house. On December 11th a couple of hours
before sunrise, Leo the lion claims his territory high overhead. The celestial lion is resting on
his paws facing west. Just above his nose is a small misty cloud effortlessly seen with the
6-inch refractor. On a cold night, it is easy for me to imagine the misty cloud as a warm
lion-breath caught in the cold night air.
NGC 2903 is an elongated galaxy seen at a 24-degree tilt. The Lion’s Breath, even at a
distance of 20 million light years, shows detail in my modest telescope. At a magnification of
84x the core appears almost stellar with knots of galactic activity on either side. It is
interesting to note that when Sir William Herschel discovered this galaxy on November 16,
1784, he thought it was two objects and thus assigned the galaxy two numbers (NGC 2903 &
2905). It makes me wonder if there might have been a flare-up (supernova?) in one of the
active knots near the core when he viewed it.
With the mass of 80 billion suns, NGC 2903 is so much more than just an exhale of a
mythological lion. It is an easy to find telescopic galaxy which shows detail even under