Galaxies, stars, and planets are famous for having cool names inspired by mythology, fauna, or simply because of their shape.
Many people look for inspiration in these objects to name newborn baby girls, boys, or even their pets.
How do Galaxies get their names?
By our best estimates, there are more than 125 billion galaxies in the observable universe. It would be a daunting task to assign a name to all of them. Only the most prominent galaxies, or the ones that are closer to our own, receive proper names. The rest only receive a designation based on the catalog you are looking at, their position in the sky, or the order in which they were discovered.
The most popular modern catalog of galaxies is NGC, which is short for New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters. This catalog is ordered from east to west so the galaxies that are “close” to each other as they are viewed from Earth receive numbers that are close to each other. For example, the designation for the Sombrero Galaxy is NGC 4594.
There are other popular catalogs, like the Messier catalog, that only contains 110 galaxies or the Catalogue of Principal Galaxies that has more than 73,000 galaxies. So it’s possible for a galaxy to have multiple names.
We have compiled a complete list of all the galaxies that have proper names and the meaning of each and are ordered alphabetically. We have also included some of their other designations and, where possible, the constellation they can be found at if you want to observe them through a telescope.
Unlike constellations that have had names since the times of ancient civilizations, a lot of these galaxies were discovered in more modern times because they are not visible without the help of telescopes. This is why you will see a lot more names of galaxies named after everyday objects instead of mythological animals or characters.
Remember that Earth is part of the Milky Way galaxy.
There are some galaxies that are named after the constellation they are located in. This means that from Earth, they can be seen inside the area of the limits of said constellation, it doesn’t mean that the galaxy i really inside the constellation as galaxies are much farther away than any star that can be individually seen from our planet.
|Galaxy name||Designations||Constellation||Name meaning|
|Andromeda||M31, NGC 224, UGC 454, PGC 2557||Andromeda||In mythology, Andromeda is the daughter of the kings of Ethiopia and is said to be more beautiful than the Nereids. She becomes queen of Greece when she marries Perseus.|
|Antennae Galaxy||NGC 4038 & 4039,|
PGC 37967 & 37969
|Corvus||This is a dual galaxy. It gets its name because it is said to look like a pair of insect antennae.|
|Backward Galaxy||NGC 4622, PGC 42701||Centaurus||It seems to rotate in the opposite direction to what it should according to its shape.|
|Black Eye Galaxy||Evil Eye Galaxy, M64, NGC 4826, PGC 44182||Coma Berenices||It looks like an eye with a dark stripe underneath|
|Bode’s Galaxy||M81, NGC 3031, UGC 5318, PGC 28630||Ursa Major||Named after the astronomer who discovered it, Johann Elert Bode|
|Butterfly Galaxies||NGC 4567 & 4568, UGC 7776 & 7777, PGC 42064 & 42069||Virgo||Binary galaxies. It looks like a pair of butterfly wings.|
|Cartwheel Galaxy||PGC 2248||Sculptor||It looks a bit like a cartwheel|
|Centaurus A||NGC 5128, Arp 153, PGC 46957||Centaurus||Named because it’s located in the Centaurus constellation|
|Cigar Galaxy||M82, NGC 3034, UGC 5322, PGC 28655||Ursa Major||It is shaped like a cigar|
|Circinus||ESO 97-G13||Circinus||Latin for compass. Named after the constellation of the same name.|
|Coma Pinwheel Galaxy||NGC 4254, PGC 39578||Coma Berenices||It looks like a paper pinwheel|
|Comet Galaxy||VCC 1217, IC 3418||Sculptor||It’s unusually shaped like a comet|
|Cosmos Redshift 7||Sextans||It’s the brightest of the distant galaxies. It contains some of the oldest stars we know of.|
|Eye of Sauron||NGC 4151, UGC 7166, PGC 38739||Canes Venatici||Looks like the eye of Sauron, from Lord of the rings.|
|Fireworks Galaxy||NGC 6946, UGC 11597, PGC 65001||Cygnus||It is extremely bright and has lots of colors.|
|Hockey stick galaxy||UGC 7907, PGC 42863||Canes Venatici||Looks like a hockey stick. It might be 3 galaxies.|
|Hoag’s Galaxy||PGC 54559||Serpens||Named after its discoverer, Art Hoag|
|Large Magellanic Cloud||ESO 56- G 115, PGC 17223||Dorado||Named after Ferdinand Magellan|
|Lindsay-Shapley Ring||PGC 19481, AM 0644-741, ESO 34-11||Volans||Ring galaxy, named after its discoverer Eric Lindsay|
|Little Sombrero Galaxy||NGC 7814, UGC 8, PGC 218||Pegasus||It looks like a sombrero, but it’s smaller than the Sombrero Galaxy|
|Malin 1||PGC 42102, LEDA 42102, VPC 1091||Coma Berenices||Named after its discoverer, David Malin|
|Medusa Merger||NGC 4194, UGC 7241, PGC 39068||Ursa Major||Named after the snakes in the Greek myth of Medusa|
|Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy||PGC 3589||Sculptor||Named because it’s located in the Sculptor constellation|
|Mice Galaxies||NGC 4676, UGC 7938 / 7939, PGC 43062 / 43065||Coma Berenices||Two galaxies with long tails that look like a mouse|
|Small Magellanic Cloud||NGC 292, PGC 3085||Tucana||Named after Ferdinand Magellan|
|Mayall’s Object||APG 148, VV 032||Ursa Major||Named after its discoverer, Nicholas Mayall|
|Milky Way||Our own galaxy. It is said to look like a band of light|
|Needle Galaxy||NGC 4565, UGC 7772, PGC 42038||Coma Berenices||Named because of its thin appearance|
|Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte||UGCA 444, PGC 143||Cetus||Named after the astronomers that co-discovered it|
|Pinwheel Galaxy||M101, NGC 5457, UGC 8981, PGC 50063||Ursa Major||It looks like a paper pinwheel|
|Sculptor Galaxy||NGC 253, UGCA 13, PGC 2789||Sculptor||Named because it’s located in the Sculptor constellation|
|Sombrero Galaxy||M104, NGC 4594, UGC 293, PGC 42407||Virgo||Looks like a sombrero|
|Southern Pinwheel Galaxy||M83, NGC 5236, PGC 48082||Hydra||Named because it looks similar to the Pinwheel Galaxy|
|Sunflower Galaxy||M63, NGC 5055, PGC 46153, UGC 8334||Canes Venatici||Named because it looks a bit a sunflower|
|Tadpole Galaxy||UGC 10214, Arp 188, PGC 57129||Draco||It has a long tail, like a tadpole|
|Triangulum Galaxy||NGC 0598, UGC 1117, PGC 5818||Triangulum||It’s located in the Triangulum Constellation|
|Whirlpool Galaxy||M51a, NGC 5194, UGC 8493, PGC 47404||Canes Venatici||Named because it looks like a whirlpool|
Who named the galaxies
Galaxies that receive proper names were generally named by the astronomers who discovered them.
In modern times, with so many new galaxies being discovered every day, it is no longer practical for new objects or galaxies to receive proper names, so they are mostly named only with alphanumeric designations. The official catalogs are maintained and organized by the International Astronomical Union, a multinational organization of recognized astronomers and scientists.
List of names of other celestial objects
If you didn’t find the names you were looking for in this list, try our other lists of names for other celestial objects. Stars and constellations tend to have more interesting names than galaxies.