NGC 4449, also known as Caldwell 21, is an irregular galaxy located 12.5 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. It's part of the M94 Group (or Canes Venatici I Group), a galaxy group close to the Local Group. With an apparent magnitude of +9.4, it's within binocular range but challenging. The galaxy is much easier to spot with telescopes and a rewarding object due to its unusual appearance.

NGC 4449 is intrinsically similar in size and brightness to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), but unlike the Large Magellanic Cloud, it's a starburst galaxy with a high rate of active star formation. It's believed that the current widespread starburst was triggered by interaction or merging of NGC 4449 with a smaller companion or companions. As a result, it contains numerous HII regions and several large star clusters, which contain thousands of young, hot blue stars.

William Herschel discovered the galaxy on April 27, 1788. It's best seen from Northern Hemisphere latitudes during the months of March, April and May.

NGC 4449 (credit:-  NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

Finder Chart for NGC 4449 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for NGC 4449 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

NGC 4449 is located 3 degrees northwest of Chara (β CVn - mag. +4.2). It has a high surface brightness and therefore, under dark skies, can be spotted with 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars. With binoculars, averted vision is recommended, although at best the galaxy appears as only a tiny diffuse glow. Through a small 100mm (4-inch) telescope, an odd rectangle shape of light with a bright centre is revealed. A 250mm (10-inch) scope at high powers shows several foreground stars along the main axis of the galaxy, with knotty HII regions visible at the northern edge. In total, the galaxy spans 6.2 x 4.4 arc minutes of apparent sky, which corresponds to a spatial diameter of 20,000 light-years.

NGC 4449 provides a peculiar change from the many hundreds of spiral and elliptical galaxies visible to backyard astronomers. It's a remarkable galaxy that's well worth a look.

NGC 4449 Data Table

Object TypeIrregular Galaxy
ConstellationCanes Venatici
Distance (light-years)12.5 Million
Apparent Mag.+9.4
RA (J2000)12h 28m 11s
DEC (J2000)+44d 05m 36s
Apparent Size (arc mins)6.2 x 4.4
Radius (light-years)10,000
Number of Stars15 Billion
Notable FeatureMember of the M94 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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