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The Whale Galaxy and Hockey Stick Galaxy | How to Photograph Both Galaxies

Updated: May 18, 2023



The Whale Galaxy (NGC 4631) and the Hockey Stick Galaxy (NGC 4656/NGC4657) are two barred spiral galaxies located in the constellation Canes Venatici. The Whale and the Hockey Stick are beautiful objects that are often photographed together due to their proximity to one another.


We imaged these targets from a Bortle 4 zone and spent about 3 hours on them using our refractor telescope and one-shot-color camera.


Object Designation: NGC 4631, NGC 4656 & NGC 4657

Also known as: The Whale Galaxy (NGC 4631) and the Hockey Stick Galaxy (NGC 4656/57)

Constellation: Coma Berenices

Object Type: Grand Design Spiral Galaxy

Distance: 30 (Whale) & 25 (Hockey Stick) million light-years away

Magnitude: 9.8 (Whale) & 11.0 (Hockey Stick)

Discovered in: 1787



The Whale Galaxy astrophotography with amateur equipment
The Whale Galaxy - Crop from our full image

On the left is a zoomed-in image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 4631, also called the Whale Galaxy.

The object is obviously seen edge-on, and is full of beautiful details! It is mostly blue, with a bright yellow/orange core.

You may notice a tiny galaxy just above the Whale. This is NGC 4627, a dwarf elliptical galaxy orbiting the larger NGC 4631.




Both NGC 4631 and NGC 4627 are believed to have an impact on the strange shape of the nearby Hockey Stick Galaxy. Learn more about this object below!


The Hockey Stick Galaxy astrophotography with amateur equipment
The Hockey Stick Galaxy - Crop from our full image

The Hockey Stick Galaxy, sometimes named the Crowbar Galaxy, can be seen on the right!


The Hockey Stick Galaxy has two designations: NGC 4656 and NGC 4657. This is because the object is actually made up of two interacting galaxies. The "handle" of the Hockey Stick (or crowbar) is the galaxy NGC 4657, while the actual stick is NGC 4656.




Below is our full image! The Whale Galaxy can be seen near the top half of the frame, and the Hockey Stick Galaxy near the bottom half.