Steve Gottlieb's NGC Notes


These are my observing notes for every non-stellar object in the NGC, which was compiled by John Louis Dreyer in 1888 and includes 7840 objects discovered visually up to that date. As far as I know, these notes are the only visual journal of the entire NGC by a single observer, from the north to the south celestial pole. In addition, I've included my observing notes on nearly 1500 entries from the IC (Index Catalogues of 1894 and 1907).

In 2014, I completed a 35-year project of observing every NGC object north of -41° declination. These are all NGCs that are reasonably accessible from my home in northern California, though I still had 300 or so far southern objects remaining that were not visible from the United States. After a few 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.

My observations 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, observations were made at sites having SQM readings from 21.3-21.8. 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.

I began taking notes on the Messier objects using a 6" f/5 reflector in 1978 and three years later was exploring fainter NGCs with a 13.1" Odyssey I. The vast majority of my notes, though, were made using 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 and also taken detailed notes on several hundred NGCs using Jimi Lowrey's 48" gigantic dobsonian from west Texas. In general, you'll find multiple observations of many NGCs so visual appearances through a variety of apertures can be compared.

All of the NGC/IC identifications have been checked for historical accuracy as part of the NGC/IC Project. 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.

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 11/30/17

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 999
NGC 1000 thru NGC 1999
NGC 2000 thru NGC 2999
NGC 3000 thru NGC 3999
NGC 4000 thru NGC 4999
NGC 5000 thru NGC 5999
NGC 6000 thru NGC 6999
NGC 7000 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