NGC 4244, also known as Caldwell 26, is an edge-on spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Canes Venatici. With an apparent magnitude of +10.0 it can be spotted with small telescopes under dark skies, but much easier with larger instruments. The galaxy appears highly flattened, spanning 16 x 2 arc minutes, and as a result is often referred to as the Silver Needle galaxy. It's a superb example of an edge-on needle spiral that's bettered only by NGC 4565 in Coma Berenices.
NGC 4244 was discovered by William Herschel on March 17, 1787. It's part of the M94 Group or Canes Venatici I group of galaxies, which contains at least 24 members. The galaxy is best seen from Northern Hemisphere locations during the months of March, April and May.
NGC 4244 is located 7.5 degrees west of Cor Caroli (α CVn - mag. +2.9) and 4.75 degrees southwest of Chara (β CVn - mag. +4.2). Tenth magnitude irregular galaxy NGC 4214 is positioned 1.5 degrees south of the galaxy with 11th magnitude spiral galaxy NGC 4151 situated 2 degrees northwest of NGC 4244.
A 100mm (4-inch) refractor shows NGC 4244 as a thin streak of greyish light, which makes a welcome change from the hazy oval look of most spirals. Through larger scopes it appears brighter, especially towards the centre, but spotting additional details is difficult. Under dark skies and with averted vision an observer using a 300mm (12-inch) scope may be able to see subtle markings such as mottling and dark dust lanes.
Like a number of spiral galaxies, NGC 4244 contains a tiny but massive nuclear star cluster at its centre. This type of cluster is flattened and contains significant numbers of stars. It's about the same size as a normal globular cluster.
NGC 4244 is approx. 14 Million light-years distant. It has a spatial diameter of 65,000 light-years and is estimated to contain 40 billion stars.
NGC 4244 Data Table
|Object Type||Spiral Galaxy|
|Distance (light-years)||14 Million|
|RA (J2000)||12h 17m 30s|
|DEC (J2000)||+37d 48m 24s|
|Apparent Size (arc mins)||16.2 x 1.8|
|Number of Stars||40 Billion|
|Notable Feature||A member of the M94 Group of galaxies|