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.

Galaxy Names

Pinwheel Galaxy
Pinwheel Galaxy

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 nameDesignationsConstellationName meaning
AndromedaM31, NGC 224, UGC 454, PGC 2557AndromedaIn 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 GalaxyNGC 4038 & 4039,
PGC 37967 & 37969
CorvusThis is a dual galaxy. It gets its name because it is said to look like a pair of insect antennae.
Backward GalaxyNGC 4622, PGC 42701CentaurusIt seems to rotate in the opposite direction to what it should according to its shape.
Black Eye GalaxyEvil Eye Galaxy, M64, NGC 4826, PGC 44182Coma BerenicesIt looks like an eye with a dark stripe underneath
Bode’s GalaxyM81, NGC 3031, UGC 5318, PGC 28630Ursa MajorNamed after the astronomer who discovered it, Johann Elert Bode
Butterfly GalaxiesNGC 4567 & 4568, UGC 7776 & 7777, PGC 42064 & 42069VirgoBinary galaxies. It looks like a pair of butterfly wings.
Cartwheel GalaxyPGC 2248SculptorIt looks a bit like a cartwheel
Centaurus ANGC 5128, Arp 153, PGC 46957CentaurusNamed because it’s located in the Centaurus constellation
Cigar GalaxyM82, NGC 3034, UGC 5322, PGC 28655Ursa MajorIt is shaped like a cigar
CircinusESO 97-G13CircinusLatin for compass. Named after the constellation of the same name.
Coma Pinwheel GalaxyNGC 4254, PGC 39578Coma BerenicesIt looks like a paper pinwheel
Comet GalaxyVCC 1217, IC 3418SculptorIt’s unusually shaped like a comet
Cosmos Redshift 7SextansIt’s the brightest of the distant galaxies. It contains some of the oldest stars we know of.
Eye of SauronNGC 4151, UGC 7166, PGC 38739Canes VenaticiLooks like the eye of Sauron, from Lord of the rings.
Fireworks GalaxyNGC 6946, UGC 11597, PGC 65001CygnusIt is extremely bright and has lots of colors.
Hockey stick galaxyUGC 7907, PGC 42863Canes VenaticiLooks like a hockey stick. It might be 3 galaxies.
Hoag’s GalaxyPGC 54559SerpensNamed after its discoverer, Art Hoag
Large Magellanic CloudESO 56- G 115, PGC 17223DoradoNamed after Ferdinand Magellan
Lindsay-Shapley RingPGC 19481, AM 0644-741, ESO 34-11VolansRing galaxy, named after its discoverer Eric Lindsay
Little Sombrero GalaxyNGC 7814, UGC 8, PGC 218PegasusIt looks like a sombrero, but it’s smaller than the Sombrero Galaxy
Malin 1PGC 42102, LEDA 42102, VPC 1091Coma BerenicesNamed after its discoverer, David Malin
Medusa MergerNGC 4194, UGC 7241, PGC 39068Ursa MajorNamed after the snakes in the Greek myth of Medusa
Sculptor Dwarf GalaxyPGC 3589SculptorNamed because it’s located in the Sculptor constellation
Mice GalaxiesNGC 4676, UGC 7938 / 7939, PGC 43062 / 43065Coma BerenicesTwo galaxies with long tails that look like a mouse
Small Magellanic CloudNGC 292, PGC 3085TucanaNamed after Ferdinand Magellan
Mayall’s ObjectAPG 148, VV 032Ursa MajorNamed after its discoverer, Nicholas Mayall
Milky WayOur own galaxy. It is said to look like a band of light
Needle GalaxyNGC 4565, UGC 7772, PGC 42038Coma BerenicesNamed because of its thin appearance
Wolf-Lundmark-MelotteUGCA 444, PGC 143CetusNamed after the astronomers that co-discovered it
Pinwheel GalaxyM101, NGC 5457, UGC 8981, PGC 50063Ursa MajorIt looks like a paper pinwheel
Sculptor GalaxyNGC 253, UGCA 13, PGC 2789Sculptor Named because it’s located in the Sculptor constellation
Sombrero GalaxyM104, NGC 4594, UGC 293, PGC 42407VirgoLooks like a sombrero
Southern Pinwheel GalaxyM83, NGC 5236, PGC 48082HydraNamed because it looks similar to the Pinwheel Galaxy
Sunflower GalaxyM63, NGC 5055, PGC 46153, UGC 8334Canes VenaticiNamed because it looks a bit a sunflower
Tadpole GalaxyUGC 10214, Arp 188, PGC 57129DracoIt has a long tail, like a tadpole
Triangulum GalaxyNGC 0598, UGC 1117, PGC 5818TriangulumIt’s located in the Triangulum Constellation
Whirlpool GalaxyM51a, NGC 5194, UGC 8493, PGC 47404Canes VenaticiNamed 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.


Elena is a Canadian journalist and researcher. She has been looking at the sky for years and hopes to introduce more people to the wonderful hobby that is astronomy.