NGC 4236 is a tenth magnitude barred spiral galaxy in Draco that's visible through small telescopes, although best seen with larger instruments. The galaxy was discovered by German born British astronomer William Herschel on April 6, 1793 and is a member of the Ursa Major or M81 group of galaxies that contains at least 34 galaxies, including spectacular M81 (Bode's galaxy) and M82 (Cigar galaxy).

NGC 4236 is located in the far northern constellation of Draco about 15 degrees north of the seven stars that form the famous "Plough" or "Big Dipper" asterism of Ursa Major. The galaxy is positioned two-thirds of the way along an imaginary line connecting stars lambda Dra (λ Dra - mag. +3.8) and kappa Dra (κ Dra - mag. +3.9). Star HD 106574 (mag +5.7) is 0.75 degrees directly north of NGC 4236.

Due to its high northerly declination, NGC 4236 is a Northern Hemisphere object. The best months to look for it are March, April or May although from most northern locations it's visible all year round and never sets. It can be seen from the Southern Hemisphere but only from latitudes north of 20 degrees south and even then appears low down above the northern horizon at best.

NGC 4236 - Barred Spiral Galaxy (GALEX/STScl)

Finder Chart for NGC 4236

Finder Chart for NGC 4236 - pdf format

At apparent magnitude +9.7, NGC 4236 is a tough galaxy for small scopes but rewarding if you can catch it. A 80mm (3.1-inch) telescope reveals a thin needle haze of light that's best seen at low powers using averted vision. Through a 200mm (8-inch) scope the galaxy appears large and faint but with a brighter centre that hints at mottling. Since it spans in total 22 x 7 arc minutes and not far from edge-on, NGC 4236 appears noticeable thin. In larger sized amateur scopes, the galaxy shows much mottling and knotty details along its length with a slightly brighter oval shaped centre. A pleasant view.

NGC 4236 is located 11.7 Million light-years distant. It has a radius of 75,000 light-years and is estimated to contain more than 100 billion stars. The galaxy is object number 3 in the Caldwell catalogue.

NGC 4236 Data Table

Object TypeBarred Spiral Galaxy
Distance (ly)11.7 Million
Apparent Mag.9.7
RA (J2000)12h 16m 42s
DEC (J2000)69h 27m 45s
Apparent Size (arc mins)22 x 7
Radius (light-years)37500
Number of Stars>100 Billion
Notable FeatureMember of the M81 Group

Sky Highlights - March 2017

Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak now visible with binoculars as it heads towards perihelion

Mercury heading towards greatest elongation east

Minor Planet
Vesta now visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for March 2017

Northern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (mag. -4.8 to -4.1 - first half of month), Mars (mag. +1.3 to +1.5), Uranus (mag. +5.9), Mercury (mag. -1.5 to -0.4 - second half of month)
Southeast:- Jupiter (mag. -2.3 to -2.5)
Southwest:- Jupiter
Southeast:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)

Southern Hemisphere
West:- Venus (first half of month), Mars, Uranus
North:- Jupiter
East:- Saturn
West:- Jupiter
Northeast:- Saturn
East:- Neptune (mag. +8.0 - second half of month)

Deep Sky
Naked eye / binoculars:-
Melotte 111 - Mel 111 - The Coma Star Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)

Messier 67 - M67 - Open Cluster
Messier 51 - M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 97 - M97 - The Owl Nebula (Planetary Nebula)
Messier 101 - M101 - The Pinwheel Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy)
Messier 65 – M65 – Spiral Galaxy
Messier 66 - M66 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
Messier 95 - M95 - Barred Spiral Galaxy
Messier 96 - M96 - Intermediate Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4244 - Spiral Galaxy
NGC 4565 - Needle Galaxy - Spiral Galaxy

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