NGC 4631 -- Barred Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici
A Whale of a Galaxy
The Whale Galaxy (NGC 4631) gets its name from its elongated shape that is overly fat in the
middle. NGC 4631 is large in the eyepiece and in real size. Seen from nearly edge on this
galaxy is not difficult in the 155mm refractor from my suburban backyard.
This galaxy is a fine example of being able to tease out galactic detail in a modest-sized
telescope (in fact it maybe one of the best). The Whale has several bright star-forming regions
near its middle, but the bright core, seen in most spiral galaxies, remains hidden (dust?). The
full length of the galaxy appears mottled and not uniform in brightness. This is a galaxy that one
is wise to spend some time with using a high magnification eyepiece. The overall drawing was
done at 84x, while details of the galaxy were added using 232x.
The Whale has a small companion galaxy (NGC 4627) to its north. At magnitude 12.4 it should
be beyond what I could normally see from the deck of my house. However, it is small and
condense and was not difficult to make out at 232x. I like to think that NGC 4627 as the exhaled
sea water from the spay-hole on the top of the whale’s head.