|NGC 4273 & NGC 4281: Galaxy Pair (Virgo) RA: 12h 20.0m / DEC: +05° 22'.0|
Instrument: 10-inch Starfinder
NGC 4281 and NGC 4273 are tucked away in northeast Virgo, about 6 degrees due north of 3.9 magnitude Eta (15) Virginis. My drawing renders a 129X view. The brightest star recorded is 7.3 magnitude HD 107258, positioned along the northern field boundary. NGC 4281 is the easternmost of seven galaxies in the drawing. At 11.3 magnitude, it is also the brightest. The galaxy presents a stellar core region embedded within a 2'.5x1'.0 glow. NGC 4281 is flanked to the north and south by two stellar pairings.
Four galaxies are seen to the southwest of NGC 4281. These are divided into two pairings. The closest includes 11.9 magnitude NGC 4273 and, 2' to the southeast, 13.4 magnitude NGC 4277. This faint little stinker is teased from the night sky with averted vision. The second galaxy pairing appears another 5'.5 to the southwest. NGC 4268 is the brighter of the two at 12.8 magnitude. An 11th magnitude star simmers just 4' to the south. Halfway in-between, the extremely faint MAC 1219+0515 is barely discernible. This guy emerges only with averted vision and then, only about 50% of the time.
Two other galaxies occupy the field. NGC 4270, a 12.2 magnitude SO-type galaxy, is stationed 9' northwest of NGC 4281. Three 11th and 13th magnitude stars form a triangular pattern 4' to the north. A 13th magnitude ember glows just 3' to the west. About 9' to the southwest, 13.6 magnitude NGC 4259 emerges from the southern Arizona sky. Another FLS (faint little stinker), this guy pops in pretty consistently with averted vision.
When I returned home from this observing session, the first things I did was fire up Megastar5 to check this observation. The Uranometria chart I used in the field shows just the NGC objects, which are neither scaled properly nor shown aligned according to their respective position angles. Also, only one of the 19 field stars in my sketch is plotted. Were the threshold objects I drew legitimate detections or instances of averted imagination?
Immediately, the Megastar display confirmed that I had been in the area around NGC 4281. The stars in my drawing are accurately positioned, and each smudge of pencil lead corresponds in location and size to a galaxy in the program's database. When I saw the identification for MAC 1219+0515, I was surprised. The magnitude--15.5--sent my jaw to the floor. This must be a photographic or blue magnitude, perhaps even an estimate based on the appearance of the galaxy on a POSS plate. Whatever the actual visual magnitude is for this object, it's faint.
Prior to that night, I never would have believed it possible to go so deep with my humble 10-inch Meade Newtonian. This was an exciting observation, one which reaffirms my interest in exploring the deep-sky and my belief that dark skies are far more important to successful observing than aperture.
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Revised: April 5, 2003 [WDF]