IC 342 is an 8th magnitude face-on intermediate spiral galaxy that's located in the faint northern constellation of Camelopardalis. Since positioned only 10 degrees from the galactic equator it's obscured heavily by Milky Way dust. As a result, the galaxy wasn't even discovered until famed British amateur astronomer William Frederick Denning found it in 1895. At the time it was originally thought to be a galactic nebula but in 1934 Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason discovered its spiral nature and identified it as a galaxy. Visually IC 342 is less impressive than its magnitude suggests, but on very good nights when high overhead it's a fine sight in medium and large amateur scopes.

The galaxy is best seen from the Northern Hemisphere during the months of November, December and January. It's circumpolar from all latitudes greater than 22N but not well situated for southern observers where it never climbs very high above the northern horizon.

IC 342 is listed as number 5 in the Caldwell catalogue.

IC 342 - Spiral Galaxy (credit:- Sean Curry)

Finder Chart for IC 342 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for IC 342 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

The neighbouring constellation of Cassiopeia is a good starting point to locating IC 342. First imagine a line connecting Ruchbah (δ Cas - mag. +2.7) and epsilon Cas (ε mag. +3.4) - the two easternmost stars of the "W" asterism - and then extending it in a northeasterly direction for 12 degrees. This barren region of sky is where the galaxy is found.

IC 342 has a visual mag. of +8.4 (mag. +9.1 in blue light) and appears face-on with an apparent diameter of 21 arc minutes. With the light spread out over such a large area it suffers from a very low surface brightness. In addition, the arms are ghost like and extremely dim. Through a 100mm (4-inch) scope, the nucleus is visible surrounded by a faint haze of light that extends for about half a dozen arc minutes or so. It's easier to find in a 200mm (8-inch) scope where it appears as moderately bright circular fuzz. Only very large amateur instruments of the order of 350mm (14-inch) or more reveal patches of structure that hint at the spiral nature.

IC 342 is 10.8 Million light-years distant. It was first thought to be a member of the Local Group, but was later demonstrated to be outside. The galaxy is the main member of the IC 342 Group (or the Maffei 1 Group), which is the nearest group of galaxies to the Local Group.

In total, IC 342 contains approx. 100 Billion stars and has a spatial diameter of 70,000 light-years. To date, no supernova has ever been discovered there.

IC 342 Data Table

IC342
Caldwell5
Object TypeIntermediate Spiral Galaxy
ClassificationSAB(rs)cd
ConstellationCamelopardalis
Distance (ly)10.8 Million
Apparent Mag.8.4
RA (J2000)03h 46m 49s
DEC (J2000)68d 05m 46s
Apparent Size (arc mins)21.4 x 20.9
Radius (light-years)35,000
Number of Stars100 Billion
Notable FeatureOnce thought to be a member of the Local Group of Galaxies

Sky Highlights - September 2017

Opposition
Neptune reaches opposition on September 5th

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for September

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Jupiter (mag. -1.7)
Southwest:- Saturn (mag. +0.5)
East:- Neptune (mag. +7.8)
Midnight
South:- Neptune
East:- Uranus (mag. +5.7)
Morning
West:- Neptune
South:- Uranus
East:- Venus (mag. -3.9), Mars (mag. +1.8) (from second week), Mercury (mag. +0.5 to -1.3) (from second week)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Jupiter
Northwest:- Saturn
East:- Neptune
Midnight
West:- Saturn
North:- Neptune
Northeast:- Uranus
Morning
West:- Neptune
Northwest:- Uranus
Northeast:- Venus
East:- Mars (end of month)

Deep Sky

Small telescopes:-
Messier 13 - M13 - Great Hercules Globular Cluster
Messier 92 - M92 - Globular Cluster
Messier 11 - M11 - The Wild Duck Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 7 - M7 - The Ptolemy Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 6 - M6 - The Butterfly Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 4 - M4 - Globular Cluster
Messier 8 - M8 - Lagoon Nebula (Emission Nebula)
Messier 16 - M16 - Eagle Nebula (Emission Nebula with Open Cluster)
Messier 20 - M20 - Trifid Nebula (Emission and Reflection Nebula)

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