101 must-see cosmic objects: NGC 1365

Most observers would agree that, of all galaxies, barred spirals are the best targets for amateur telescopes. That said, it’s a shame that the best example of a barred spiral – NGC 1365 – languishes in the nearly invisible constellation of Fornax the Furnace.

As the galaxies go, NGC 1365 is bright: magnitude 9.4. It’s not tiny either, measuring 8.9′ by 6.5′. It lies about 60 million light-years away and is part of the Fornax cluster of galaxies, the second-richest nearby grouping of such objects (surpassed only by the Virgo cluster). The Fornax Cluster has more than 2,600 members.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed that NGC 1365 is feeding matter into its central region, triggering massive bursts of star formation and expanding its central bulge. The material is also fueling a 2 million solar mass supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy.

Although brilliant, NGC 1365 is not so easy to find if your telescope does not have a reference reader. To locate it, first find a triangle of three faint stars that lie 7½° south-southeast of magnitude 3.9 Alpha (α) Fornacis: magnitude 6.4 Chi1 (χ1), magnitude 5, 7 Chi2 (χ2) and magnitude 6.5 Chi3 (χ3) Fornacis. From Chi2, which is the brightest, move 1.3° east-southeast.

A 4 inch telescope in a dark location will reveal NGC 1365’s bar and brighter central region. With an instrument of 8 inches or more, you can increase the power to see the arms as well. The northern one, which starts at the western end of the bar, is brighter. The other is a bit smudged as it contains huge star forming regions

Be sure to explore astronomy full list of 101 cosmic objects you must see. New entries will be added weekly throughout 2022.

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