This newly released Hubble image of the week shows NGC 4424 and LEDA 213994.
Some astronomical objects have endearing or quirky nicknames, inspired by mythology or their own appearance. Take, for example, the constellation of Orion (The Hunter), the Sombrero Galaxy, the Horsehead Nebula, or even the Milky Way. However, the vast majority of cosmic objects appear in astronomical catalogs, and are given rather less poetic names based on the order of their discovery.
Two galaxies are clearly visible in this Hubble image, the larger of which is NGC 4424. This galaxy is cataloged in the New General Catalog of Nebulae and lusters of Stars (NGC), which was compiled in 1888. The NGC is one of the largest astronomical catalogs, which is why so many Hubble Pictures of the Week feature NGC objects. In total, there are 7840 entries in the catalog and they are also generally the larger, brighter, and more eye-catching objects in the night sky, and hence the ones more easily spotted by early stargazers.
The smaller, flatter, bright galaxy sitting just below NGC 4424 is named LEDA 213994. The Lyon-Meudon Extragalactic Database (LEDA) is far more modern than the NGC. Created in 1983 at the Lyon Observatory it contains millions of objects. However, many NGC objects still go by their initial names simply because they were christened within the NGC first. No astronomer can resist a good acronym, and “LEDA” is more appealing than “the LMED”, perhaps thanks to the old astronomical affinity with mythology when it comes to naming things: Leda was a princess in Ancient Greek mythology.
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