Most observers would admit that, out of all galaxies, barred spirals make the best targets for amateur telescopes. That said, it’s a pity the best example of a barred spiral — NGC 1365 — languishes in the nearly invisible constellation Fornax the Furnace.
As galaxies go, NGC 1365 is bright: magnitude 9.4. It’s also not tiny, measuring 8.9′ by 6.5′. It lies some 60 million light-years away and is part of the Fornax Cluster of galaxies, the second-richest nearby grouping of such objects (topped by only the Virgo Cluster). The Fornax Cluster boasts more than 2,600 members.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that NGC 1365 feeds material into its central region, igniting massive bursts of star formation and growing its central bulge. The material also feeds a 2-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole in the galaxy’s core.
Although it’s bright, NGC 1365 isn’t that easy to find if your telescope doesn’t have a go-to drive. To locate it, first find a triangle of three faint stars that lie 7½° south-southeast of magnitude 3.9 Alpha (α) Fornacis: magnitude 6.4 Chi1 (χ1), magnitude 5.7 Chi2 (χ2), and magnitude 6.5 Chi3 (χ3) Fornacis. From Chi2, which is the brightest, move 1.3° east-southeast.
A 4-inch scope at a dark location will reveal NGC 1365’s bar and brighter central region. With an 8-inch or larger instrument, you can crank up the power to also see the arms. The northern one, which starts at the west end of the bar, is brighter. The other is a bit blotchy because it contains huge star-forming regions
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