Everyone should be aware of Omega Centauri (NGC 5139), arguably the best globular star cluster in the heavens, but other treasures in Centaurus await nearby.

  • NGC 4945: This is a beautiful cigar shaped, edge on spiral galaxy a whopping 15' in length and at mag 9.3, sandwiched between 2 bright stars Xi1&2. 1/2 degree east is the fainter elliptical galaxy NGC 4976 at mag 10.9 and 5' wide.
  • NGC 5128: The famous radio source Centaurus A, also known as the Hamburger? galaxy. Mag 7.6 and 18' round, a prominent dark lane bisects the haze. See if you can spot the double cheese layer inside the dark lane, (large telescopes only)
  • NGC 5102: This bright galaxy at mag 10.5 and 6' long is often overlooked since the bright star iota Cen interferes with contrast somewhat. Use high power to obeserve this one.
  • NGC 5253: This interesting dwarf galaxy has played host to two bright 8th mag supernovae in the past (1895 and 1972). It appears as an 11th mag haze 2’x1' in diameter. Keep on the lookout!

  • NGC 4696: This is the most conspicuous elliptical galaxy in the Centaurus Galaxy Cluster (Centaurus 2) at mag 11.5 and 2' across. 15' west is the fainter elliptical NGC 4709. How many galaxies can you detect? Large telescope users should try to spot a chain of 5 faint 15th mag galaxies sandwiched between the large ellipticals. I’ve seen these through a 16" telescope. 

This article by Michael Mattiazzo appeared in the April 2001 issue of The Bulletin.