Top 10 Deep-Sky Objects of April 2024

~6 min

Galaxy Season is in full swing, and we’re ready to present you with new, exciting targets to observe and photograph. We’ve put together 10 deep-sky objects (mostly galaxies) that are well visible in April. The objects are arranged from faintest to brightest. You can easily find galaxies, star clusters, and other objects in the sky using the Sky Tonight astronomy app.


10. Needle Galaxy

Needle Galaxy
  • Alternative names: NGC 4565, Caldwell 38
  • Apparent size: 15.90′ × 1.85′ (0.5 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 10.42
  • Constellation: Coma Berenices
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The Needle Galaxy is a challenging object to spot with binoculars. Through a small telescope, it appears as a thin nebulous line with a hint of a central bulge.
  • Description: NGC 4565 is an edge-on spiral galaxy that lies close to the North Galactic Pole. It is nicknamed the Needle Galaxy because, through a telescope, it looks as thin and sharp as a needle.

9. Markarian's Chain

Markarian's Chain
  • Apparent size: 1.5° (3 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.9-12.9
  • Constellation: Virgo
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The bright members of the Markarian's Chain are visible through small telescopes. Large telescopes are required to view the fainter galaxies.
  • Description: Markarian's Chain is a stretch of galaxies located in the Virgo Cluster. It was named after the Soviet astrophysicist Benjamin Markarian, who discovered the galaxies' common motion in the early 1960s. The brightest part of the Markarian's Chain consists of nine galaxies, including the giant galaxies M84 and M86, as well as NGC 4435 and NGC 4438, known as Markarian’s Eyes.

8. Leo Triplet

Leo Triplet
  • Alternative names: M66 Group
  • Apparent size: 40′ x 50′ (1.5 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.9-9.5
  • Constellation: Leo
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: With 10x50 binoculars, you will most likely only be able to see two of the three galaxies in the Triplet — M65 and M66. They will appear as hazy smudges. You may try to spot the third galaxy, NGC 3628, with averted vision, but It won’t be an easy task. To see the whole Leo Triplet in one field of view, you’ll require at least a small 4-inch telescope.
  • Description: The Leo Triplet consists of three spiral galaxies: M65, M66, and NGC 3628 (also known as the Hamburger Galaxy). When seen from the Earth, the galaxies are tilted at different angles: NGC 3628 appears edge-on, while M65 and M66 are inclined enough to reveal their spiral arms. All three galaxies gravitationally interact with each other.

7. Whirlpool Galaxy

Whirlpool Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M51, M51a, NGC 5194
  • Apparent size: 11.2′ × 6.9′ (0.4 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.4
  • Constellation: Canes Venatici
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: In large binoculars, the Whirlpool Galaxy appears as a small nebulous spot. With an amateur telescope, the galaxy’s impressive spiral structure reveals itself.
  • Description: M51 is a “grand-design” spiral galaxy — in other words, a galaxy with prominent and well-defined spiral arms. The arms serve as “star factories”, compressing hydrogen gas to create new star clusters. Some astronomers believe that the Whirlpool Galaxy's arms are so prominent because of the influence of its companion galaxy, NGC 5195.

6. Cat's Eye Galaxy

Cat's Eye galaxy
  • Alternative names: M94, NGC 4736, Crocodile Eye Galaxy
  • Apparent size: 11.2′ × 9.1′ (0.4 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.2
  • Constellation: Canes Venatici
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: On a clear night, the Cat’s Eye Galaxy can be spotted with binoculars — but only as a small patch of light. Even with small telescopes, this object is discernible as a galaxy.
  • Description: M94 is a spiral galaxy with two ring structures. The galaxy’s inner ring is the site of strong star formation activity. Also, there is very little or no dark matter present in M94, and astronomers still don’t know why.

5. Sombrero Galaxy

Sombrero Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M104, NGC 4594
  • Apparent size: 9′ × 4′ (0.3 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 8.0
  • Constellation: Virgo
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: You can see the Sombrero Galaxy even through small binoculars — it will look like a small oval smudge of light. If you want to get the best view of its hat-like shape, you should use at least a 10- or 12-inch telescope.
  • Description: The Sombrero Galaxy is a peculiar galaxy of unclear classification, slightly bigger in size than the Milky Way. Its unusually large central bulge and a prominent dust lane in the outer disk attract the attention of both amateur and professional astronomers.

4. Pinwheel Galaxy

Pinwheel Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M101, NGC 5457
  • Apparent size: 28.8′ × 26.9′ (0.9 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 7.9
  • Constellation: Ursa Major
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Under dark skies, you can see the Pinwheel Galaxy with 10x50 binoculars. However, because of the galaxy’s low surface brightness, it’s better to use a small telescope for its observation.
  • Description: M101 is a large spiral galaxy, almost two times larger than our Milky Way. It contains 11 nebulae bright enough to have their own NGC designations — more than any other galaxy.

3. Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

Southern Pinwheel Galaxy
  • Alternative names: M83, NGC 5236
  • Apparent size: 12.9′ × 11.5′ (0.4 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 7.6
  • Constellation: Hydra
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: Under dark skies, the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy is visible with 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars as a patch of light with a bright center. A small telescope will help you see its spiral structure.
  • Description: M83 is a barred spiral galaxy, one of the closest and brightest in the sky. In the past 100 years, six supernovae were observed in this galaxy, and almost 300 supernova remnants (leftovers from exploded stars) have been found within it.

2. M3

  • Alternative names: NGC 5272
  • Apparent size: 18′ (0.6 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 6.39
  • Constellation: Canes Venatici
  • Best observed from: Northern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: The M3 cluster is very difficult to see with the naked eye, even with averted vision. However, it's easily visible with 10x50 binoculars.
  • Description: M3 was the first Messier object to be discovered by Charles Messier himself and is one of the best-studied globular star clusters. The cluster is made up of around 500,000 stars and is estimated to be 11.4 billion years old.

1. Omega Centauri

Omega Centauri
  • Alternative names: ω Cen, NGC 5139, Caldwell 80
  • Apparent size: 36′ (1.2 x Moon)
  • Apparent magnitude: 3.9
  • Constellation: Centaurus
  • Best observed from: Southern Hemisphere
  • How to observe: To the naked eye, the Omega Centauri star cluster is seen as a hazy “star” (which is why it was included in Ptolemy’s star catalog in 140 AD). With 10x50 binoculars, you will see a lot of stars concentrated in a very small area. With a telescope, you can resolve even more stars.
  • Description: Omega Centauri is the Milky Way’s largest and most massive globular cluster, estimated to contain 10 million stars. It has been speculated that this cluster is the core of a dwarf galaxy that was disrupted and absorbed by the Milky Way.


What is a deep-sky object?

Deep-sky object is a term used to describe astronomical objects beyond our Solar System – nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies are the most common types of them. They usually require binoculars or a telescope to observe, though some of them can be faintly seen by the naked eye in the dark night sky.

What is a Messier object?

The best observable deep-sky targets are listed in the Messier catalog. There are 110 Messier objects that include groupings of stars, clouds of gas and dust in our Milky Way, plus galaxies beyond our own that look gorgeous through a telescope. It’s interesting that Charles Messier himself didn’t know he was creating the list of the brightest deep-sky objects. He was a comet hunter and listed all of the objects that shouldn’t be confused with comets. Anyway, curious stargazers now honor Messier and his catalog. There is even a competition called the Messier marathon when astronomers try to find as many Messier objects as possible in one night, testing their observing abilities and the quality of their optics.

Why are some galaxies called NGC?

The other popular reference list is NGC – The New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars. It contains 7,840 objects, so you’ll have the targets to observe for your whole life. The objects of these two catalogs, along with many others, can be found for free in the Sky Tonight app — just write the object’s name in the search field, and you’ll learn its location and get detailed info about it.

What are the most visible deep-sky objects?

If you are an eagle-eyed observer, you can try to find the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Pleiades (M45) even with the naked eye. They are better seen, of course, when the skies aren’t light-polluted. There are more options though, if you take optics.

April deep-sky objects: Bottom line

In April, you can observe and photograph some unique-looking galaxies (like the Sombrero Galaxy and the Needle Galaxy), as well as whole groups of galaxies (the Markarian’s Chain and the Leo Triplet). There are a couple of bright star clusters, too! Use the astronomy app Sky Tonight to locate deep-sky objects in the night sky. Also, take our fun quiz and try to guess a deep-sky object’s name by its photo!

Astronomers are weird people and they often name things according to their strange ideas. Let’s see how weird you are – try to guess a nebula’s name from its picture!
Take the quiz!