NGC 3395 in Leo Minor

March 2023 - Galaxy of the Month

This interactive image of the NGC 3395 and was provided by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) using Aladin Sky Atlas. We also have a finder chart should help you locate these galaxies, as will this link for NGC 3395 on the Stellarium Web planetarium.

This month’s challenge is the galaxy pair in Leo Minor, NGC 3395 and NGC 3396, also known as Arp 270 and VV 246. The pair were discovered by William Herschel in December 1785. They are part of the NGC 3430 group, also known as LGG 218, which lists about 15 members lying at about 30 Mpc.

There are a number of other fainter galaxies in the field that were discovered by Stephan Javelle using a 76cm refractor, these being IC 2604, IC 2605, IC 2608 and IC 2612, although IC 2605 is just a bright spot in NGC 3395. IC 2612 is not associated with the group being a background galaxy.

UV observations of the group with the GALEX satellite show that large amounts of star formation appear to be going on in both NGC 3395 and 3396 along with the nearby galaxy NGC 3430, in fact NGC 3395 is classified as having a starburst nucleus.

The galaxies appear to be in the early stages of an interaction and are still separate, although at the calculated distance they would only be about 12 kpc apart, about a third of the distance between our Milky Way and the LMC. The galaxies appear to be overlapping and a bridge and tidal tails have been detected in the pair. The suggestion is that they have already had one close pass and the second will be due in 10 million years or so.

NGC 3395 has been classified as a distorted spiral and NGC 3396 as Im (a Magellanic style irregular), although with its bright line spectrum it has also been classified as a Wolf-Rayet galaxy because of all the massive star formation going on. NGC 3395 was one of the galaxies that the Rosse team at thought to be spirals after observations using the 72” at Birr.

Perhaps surprisingly I can’t find an HST image of the pair. One assumes because they have strong infra-red emission, probably caused by the strong star formation, that at some point the JWST will have a look.

The NGC 3395/3396 pair is one of the best and brightest of the galaxies in the Arp atlas. NGC 3395 makes the Astronomical League’s H400 list, although the brighter of the pair, NGC 3396 does not.

The galaxies are a close pair so using high power to separate them will work well. A medium power field judiciously placed will also include the low surface brightness galaxy NGC 3430 in the same field of view as the others. This pair should be considerably easier to see than the last two GOM’s.

There are many reports of people seeing them with a 25cm (10”) scope which suggest both galaxies are easy to see. The Night Sky Observer's Guide Vol. 2 suggests that at a medium power in 40-45cm (16-18”) scopes the pair is well seen and looks like a butterfly. The nucleus of NGC 3395 is almost stellar. The pair have an entry in OOTW in the DSF forum.

Owen Brazell - Galaxy Section Director