NGC 474 and NGC 470 in Pisces
October 2021 - Picture of the Month
I've cheated, I'll admit it, this isn't an amateur image. It's part of the Dark Energy Survey (DES) being conducted by a number of the World's foremost scientific organisations. They're using the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope in the Chilean Andes, but amateurs are using remote equipment these days, and some are not much smaller.
It is an impressive sight all the same, and a pro image is my Picture of the Month since I failed to get permission in time to use an amateur image of the same galaxies (NGC 474 and NGC 470) by Marco Lorenzi, which you should go and look at on his own website anyway because it's excellent. Marco's version actually contains an additional galaxy NGC 467.
NGC 474 is the elliptical galaxy in the image, also known as Arp 227, and the wonderful spiral is NGC 470. Those shell-like structures in the former, or perhaps tidal tails, have been taken as evidence of recent mergers. There's also speculation as to whether they're caused by tidal interaction with NGC 470.
Given that these galaxies are about 100–110 million light-years from us, it's impressive that a team from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) used long exposure images from the MUSE instrument on and even bigger telescope, the VLT, to identify a number of globular clusters and planetary nebulae amongst the stars of the outer shell of NGC 474.
So apart from being a terrific imaging target, and clearly of scientific interest too, can you observe these galaxies visually? The Night Sky Observer's Guide (NSOG) Volume 1 provides an eyepiece sketch at 200x with a 12.5in telescope from dark skies, and with a scope in the 8–10in range both galaxies should be visible. I wouldn't hold out much hope of seeing those shells though.
James Whinfrey - Website Administrator.