Steve Gottlieb's NGC Notes



Here are my observing notes for every non-stellar object in the entire NGC, which was compiled by John Louis Dreyer in 1888. This famous catalogue includes 7840 entries discovered visually up to that date, the majority from William Herschel and his son John. As far as I know, these notes are the only visual journal of the entire NGC by a single observer, covering the entire sky from north to south celestial pole. In addition, I've included visual notes on 2362 objects from the IC (Index Catalogues of 1894 and 1907) for a total of 10,202 NGC/IC designations.

In 2014, I completed a 35-year project of observing every NGC object north of -41 degrees declination. These were all the NGCs accessible from my home in northern California. At that time I had also covered most of the far southern sky from several previous trips to Australia, with 300 NGCs remaining that were not visible from the United States. After a few additional observing trips to the southern hemisphere, I completed the last remaining 34 NGCs during the November 2017 OzSky Star Safari, which took place on the Markdale Homestead, a large working sheep ranch and country estate 3 ½ hour drive west of Sydney.

Since that date I've been trying to complete the 1529 entries in the first Index Catalogue (IC I).  The vast majority of these are faint galaxies, with over half the total from Stephane Javelle, who observed with a 30-inch f/23 refractor at the Nice observatory in France.  I now have just 119 of these galaxies remaining to observe.

All my observations and notes were made at fairly dark observing sites used by clubs and individuals in the San Francisco bay area as well as various northern California star parties at Lassen National Park and northeastern California. In addition, a large number of summer observations were made at high elevation sites in the Sierras or the White Mountains east of Bishop. Generally, these observations were made with SQM readings from 21.3-21.9. Deep southern objects were observed on 8 weeklong observing trips to Australia using 14" to 30" scopes that were provided by Zane Hammond at his "Magellan Observatory" and at several OzSky Star Safaris. Some southern observations were also made using Ray Cash's 13" travel scope that I brought to Costa Rica and with C-8 from the southern end of Baja.

I began taking notes on the Messier objects using a 6" f/5 reflector in 1978. Three years later I started exploring fainter NGCs with a 13.1" Odyssey I. The vast majority of my notes, though, were made with a 17.5" f/4.5 homemade dob (1987-2002) and an 18" f/4.3 Starmaster (2003-2011). Since 2012 I've used a 24" f/3.7 Starstructure. I've also taken detailed notes on over 500 NGC and IC objects using Jimi Lowrey's 48" gigantic dobsonian from west Texas. In general, you'll find multiple observations of many NGCs, so their visual appearances can be compared through a variety of apertures.

All of the NGC/IC identifications have been checked for historical accuracy as part of NGC/IC Project (database no longer available but see here). At the end of my visual observations of each NGC, I've included historical discovery information such as the observer's name, date, telescope, and the original discovery descriptions. Modern catalogues discrepancies and errors are also discussed.

In addition to the NGC and IC, the final link includes observations of nearly 1200 galaxies in the Uppsala General Catalogue (UGC), which are not in the NGC or IC. These are generally fainter galaxies that are at least 10' diameter on the first National Geographic-Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSS).

I want to acknowledge the investigative work of Dr. Harold Corwin and Dr. Wolfgang Steinicke, who I've communicated with for many years on a number of identification problems. Harold Corwin provides precise positions and extensive historical notes on thousands of NGC and IC objects at Wolfgang Steinicke provides biographical information on 172 NGC/IC astronomers, as well as a number of historically accurate catalogues in .xls format on his web site at For those interesting in learning more on the history of the NGC, I highly recommend Wolfgang's book "Observing and Cataloguing Nebulae and Star Clusters".

Steve Gottlieb

Note: All positions are in Equinox J2000.0
In the Observation Files, 13: = 13-inch Telescope, 17.5: = 17.5-inch Telescope, etc.
NGC 1 thru NGC 1000
NGC 1001 thru NGC 2000
NGC 2001 thru NGC 3000
NGC 3001 thru NGC 4000
NGC 4001 thru NGC 5000
NGC 5001 thru NGC 6000
NGC 6001 thru NGC 7000
NGC 7001 thru NGC 7840
IC 1001 thru IC 2000
IC 2001 thru IC 3000
IC 3001 thru IC 4000
IC 4001 thru IC 5000
IC 5001 thru IC 5386

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