NGC 3414 in Leo Minor

January 2024 - Galaxy of the Month

This interactive image of the NGC 3414 and was provided by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) using Aladin Sky Atlas. We also have a finder chart should help you locate these galaxies, as will this link for NGC 3414 on the Stellarium Web planetarium.

Our galaxy this month is the lenticular galaxy NGC 3414 in Leo Minor. First discovered by William Herschel in 1785 it is the central galaxy of the rich galaxy group known as the NGC 3504 group, which in turn is also part of the Leo II group, a series of clusters on the edge of the Virgo cluster. The group is also catalogued as LGG 227, a cluster of 9 galaxies. For more information on the Leo II group see An Atlas of the Universe.

NGC 3414 is also known as Arp 162 and has a weak AGN of the LINER type. The Arp listing also includes NGC 3418, another nearby lenticular galaxy, although recent classifications suggest that this is a spiral galaxy. Interestingly the gas flows in NGC 3414 appear to follow a spiral pattern, however the gas in the inner part rotates in a different direction for the outer part. Deeper images also show signs of shells so all of this could be due to a recent merger. NGC 3414 also has a very strong bar in images.

NGC 3414 lies at a distance of perhaps 23 Mpc and NGC 3418 lies perhaps 800,000 lyrs from NGC 3414. If NGC 3414 is at this distance, then it is perhaps 40,000 light-years across, perhaps half the size of our Milky Way Galaxy. NGC 3414 is classified as S0pec.

It is probable that UGC 5958, a nearby edge on galaxy, is also associated with NGC 3414. Observations in the UV part of the spectrum with the GALEX satellite shows the bright core of NGC 3414 but also shows active regions in both NGC 3418 and UGC 5958 suggesting the galaxies are interacting. There also appear to be a number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies associated with NGC 3414, although these are far beyond amateur visual observations.

NGC 3414 is bright enough to make it into the Herschel 400 list of the Astronomical League. Observations from the UK suggest that NGC 3414 can be seen in 20cm but NGC 3418 is tough in a 40cm., however other observations suggest that NGC 3418 is visible in 30cm under very dark skies, although the quality of the site here was not defined. The The Night Sky Observer's Guide (NSOG) Vol. 2 suggests that 20-25cm telescopes will show NGC 3418 as a bright core but that 30-35cm is needed to show NGC 3818. Luginbuhl and Skiff (L&S) suggest that 25cm is needed to show NGC 3414 clearly and again it shows a bright core.

Owen Brazell - Galaxy Section Director