NGC 488 is one of the most picturesque screw galaxies of the storing sky, with its multiple soft-hued and svelte screw arms. Image: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona.

NGC 488 in Pisces is an oval-shaped face-on screw galaxy that’s a bit of a subconscious gem. It makes a fine target for a small- to medium-aperture telescope and is transformed into truly a work of art in deep ventriloquist images, with its soft-hued and tightly wound screw stovepipe enveloping a unexceptionable inside rugosity providing a picturesque portrait.

How to observe

NGC 488 lies in south-eastern Pisces, a constellation well known for its hoards of galaxies led by the unconfined screw Messier 74, which lies just over 10 degrees to the north. Pisces’ increasingly narrow westerly extremes, which is where the ‘Circlet’, its distinctive asterism of five stars (including gamma [γ] and iota [ι] is found, lie unelevated the Unconfined Square of Pegasus, with the majority of its territory found to the south-east of the familiar landmark.

NGC 488 shouldn’t be too nonflexible to locate; find magnitude 3.8 Alrescha (alpha [α] Piscium), Pisces’ primary star, which lies in the constellation’s lattermost south-western corner, where it has a purlieus with Cetus. Then follow a line north-westwards for well-nigh nine degrees, passing north of magnitude 4.6 xi (ξ) Piscium and past nu (ν, mag. 4.5) Piscium to land on mu (μ, mag. 4.8) Piscium. From mu, nudge your telescope just over two degrees to locate our target.

On mid-September nights, Pisces’ eastern end is well well-spoken of the south-eastern horizon by midnight BST (23:00 UT), with NGC 488 placed over 30 degrees up. The galaxy crosses the southern meridian (when it culminates and lies at its highest in the sky) at 2.45am (01:45 UT), lying virtually 44 degrees in altitude, from London).

NGC 488 has a inside hub of very upper surface brightness. Nevertheless, it’s still out of range of 10 <M>x<M> 50 binoculars but shines unexceptionable unbearable to be spotted as a smudge of nebulosity, perhaps two arcminutes in diameter, through a small telescope of virtually 80mm (~three inches) vent at a magnification of 50<M>x<M>.

Deep ventriloquist images reveal a trappy and very well-ordered object, with multiple, evenly spaced and tightly wound screw stovepipe (it’s classified as SA(r)b). With increasing aperture, NGC 488’s circular, north–south orientated longish halo of the unresolved screw stovepipe grows in unveiled diameter to wilt as large as four arcminutes through a 250–300mm (ten- to twelve-inch) telescope. You’ll need something larger though, working on a dark, moonless and transparent night, to uncork to see a hint of those low surface splendor screw arms.

NGC 488 can be found in Pisces’ far south-eastern region. AN graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby.