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NGC 1097, mag. +9.5, is a face-on barred spiral galaxy located in the southern constellation of Fornax. It's one of the finest barred spirals in the night sky and a nice object for backyard scopes. Through a small refractor, its nucleus appears bright and is surrounded by a faint haze. With larger scopes, it's possible to make out the centre bar structure and subtle details in the spiral arms.

NGC 1097 is also classified as a Seyfert galaxy and contains an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN). At the centre of this galaxy is a huge supermassive black hole of about 140 million times the mass of the Sun. Surrounding the black hole are gases, dust and a prominent ring of hundreds of star-forming regions. New stars are being created in the ring, due to material flowing inwards towards the galaxy centre.

The galaxy is best seen from southern locations during the months of November, December and January. It was discovered by William Herschel on October 9, 1790 and is number 67 in the Caldwell catalogue.

NGC 1097 (credit:- La Silla Observatory/ESO)

Finder Chart for NGC 1097 (credit:- freestarcharts)

Finder Chart for NGC 1097 - pdf format (credit:- freestarcharts)

To locate NGC 1097, start by finding double star alpha Fornacis (α For - mag. +4.0). Then move 5 degrees southwest to beta Fornacis (β For - mag. +4.6). The galaxy is positioned 2 degrees north and a little west of this star.

Although challenging, it's possible to spot NGC 1097 with binoculars under dark skies. A 100mm (4-inch) telescope reveals a bright round core, surrounded by an oval shaped hazy nebulosity. In total, it spans 9.4 x 6.6 arc minutes of apparent sky. The characteristic central bar can be spotted with a medium size reflector of the order of 200mm (8-inch) aperture. At low magnifications, users of larger scopes may be able to make out some faint semi-circular extensions at the edges of the nucleus.

NGC 1097 has two dwarf satellite galaxies, NGC 1097A and NGC 1097B. The brightest of these is NGC 1097A, which shines at 13th magnitude. It can be spotted with medium size scopes, a couple of arc minutes northwest of the northern spiral arm of the parent galaxy.

NGC 1907 is 50 Million light-years distant. It has a spatial diameter of 140,000 light-years and is estimated to contain a trillion stars. The galaxy is a popular target for supernovae hunters. Since 1992, there have been three observed supernovae (SN 1992bd, SN 1999eu, and SN 2003B).

NGC 1097 Data Table

Object TypeBarred Spiral Galaxy
Distance (light-years)50 Million
Apparent Mag.+9.5
RA (J2000)02h 46m 19s
DEC (J2000)-30d 16m 28s
Apparent Size (arc mins)9.4 x 6.6
Radius (light-years)70,000
Number of Stars1 Trillion
Notable FeaturesSeyfert galaxy. Has two dwarf satellite galaxies, NGC 1097A and NGC 1097B.