The Box (Hickson 61)

Hickson 61
Hickson 61: Crop from Sloan Digitized Sky Survey [147]

Object Description

In 1981 Paul Hickson presented his systematic search for groups of galaxies on the photo plates of the POSS to the public. In order to be classified by him as a galaxy group, at least four members should be identifiable, which had to be reasonably compact and isolated from the rest. The catalog contains 100 groups of galaxies.

The galaxy group with NGC 4169, which is the brightest of the four, has the number 61 in Paul Hickson's Atlas of Compact Groups of Galaxies and is also labeled The Box (not to be confused with NGC 6309, Box Nebula). The name is appropriate because the four galaxies form approximately a rectangle to one another. The four galaxies show no trace of interaction on the POSS photo plates.[96]

The galaxy NGC 4169 in the southwest corner is of the compact type S0, the intermediate stage between a spiral galaxy and a barred spiral galaxy. We look at it from the side, because its axis of rotation is inclined by 70 degrees to our line of sight. The escape speed in relation to the local group is around 3800 km/s. With a Hubble constant of 75 km/s/Mpc, this means a distance of around 170 million light years. [134]

Hickson 61
Hickson 61: Galaxy Group in Coma Berenices; 500/2500mm-Newton + SBIG ST-6; 6x30s; Bülach Observatory; © 22. 7. 1996 Stefan Meister

In the case of the elongated galaxy NGC 4173 in the northern corner, we look exactly at the edge, which makes it difficult to determine its type. In the Deep-Sky Field Guide to Uranometria 2000.0 [22] you can find the type SBd and in the Lyon-Meudon Extragalactic Database [134] the type Scd. Both are very open systems with sweeping spiral arms. NGC 4173 is moving away at a speed of only 1000 km/s, which equates to a distance of only 43 million light years. So it doesn't seem to belong to the group, but she still included Paul Hickson. NGC 4173 is also a bit out of line because of its low surface brightness.

NGC 4174 at the southern corner is by far the smallest of the four galaxies, but still much brighter than NGC 4173. In this spiral galaxy, too, we are almost looking at the edge, because the angle between the axis of rotation and the viewing direction is about 72 degrees. It shows the same escape speed as NGC 4169, so also the same distance. [134]

The galaxy NGC 4175 in the west of the group of four is a spiral galaxy of type S or Sb, roughly like M 31. The angle of inclination is 86 degrees, so we are almost looking at the edge. Their escape speed is somewhat higher with about 3900 km/s relative to the local group, which equates to a distance of 170 million light years. [134]

Revised+Historic NGC/IC, Version 22/9, © Dr. Wolfgang Steinicke [277]
NameRADecTypebMagvMagDimDreyer DescriptionIdentification, Remarks
NGC 416912 12 18.7+29 10 46Gx (S0) × 0.9F, S, 1st of 4UGC 7202, MCG 5-29-32, CGCG 158-41, HCG 61A, The Box
NGC 417312 12 21.5+29 12 26Gx (Scd)13.613.05 × 0.7F, S, 2nd of 4UGC 7204, MCG 5-29-33, CGCG 158-43, KUG 1209+294A, HCG 61B, FGC 1382, The Box
NGC 417412 12 26.9+29 08 57Gx (S0-a)14.413.40.8 × 0.3F, S, 3rd of 4UGC 7206, MCG 5-29-34, CGCG 158-44, KUG 1209+294B, ARAK 351, HCG 61D, PRC C-39, MK 761, The Box
NGC 417512 12 31.0+29 10 07Gx (Sbc) × 0.4F, eS, 4th of 4UGC 7211, MCG 5-29-36, CGCG 158-45, HCG 61C, IRAS 12099+2926, The Box

Finder Chart

The galaxy quartet is not that easy to find among the vast numbers of galaxies in the Coma/Virgo cluster. About four degrees west and one degree north of 4.4 mag bright star γ Comae Berenices are started using a large field eyepiece to search for the star patterns shown in the 1° close-up. Since the quartet of galaxies appears faint and inconspicuous, an eyepiece with a field of view of around 15 arc minutes is recommended.

Chart The Box (Hickson 61)
The Box (Hickson 61) in constellation Coma Berenices. Chart created using SkySafari 6 Pro and STScI Digitized Sky Survey. [149, 160]

Visual Observation

Pending ...

More Objects Nearby (±15°)


22«The Deep Sky Field Guide to Uranometria 2000.0» by Murray Cragin, James Lucik and Barry Rappaport; Willmann-Bell, Inc.; ISBN 0-943396-38-7
96Objekte der Saison: NGC 4169/73/74/75 von Klaus Veit; Interstellarum2/96, S.52
134Lyon-Meudon Extragalactic Database (LEDA);
147Aladin Lite; (2020-12-23)
149SkySafari 6 Pro, Simulation Curriculum;
160The STScI Digitized Sky Survey;
277«Historische Deep-Sky Kataloge» von Dr. Wolfgang Steinicke; (2021-02-17)