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Portrait of an Imperfect but Beautiful Spiral

Not all spiral galaxies have to be picture-perfect to be striking. Messier 96, also known as NGC 3368, is a case in point: its core is displaced from the centre, its gas and dust are distributed asymmetrically and its spiral arms are ill-defined. But this portrait, taken with the FORS1 instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows that imperfection is beauty in Messier 96. The galaxy's core is compact but glowing, and the dark dust lanes around it move in a delicate swirl towards the nucleus. And the spiral arms, patchy rings of young blue stars, are like necklaces of blue pearls.  

Messier 96 lies in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). It is the largest galaxy in the Leo I group of galaxies; including its outermost spiral arms, it spans some 100 000 light-years in diameter — about the size of our Milky Way. Its graceful imperfections likely result from the gravitational pull of other members in the group, or are perhaps due to past galactic encounters. 

A multitude of background galaxies peers through the dusty spiral. Perhaps the most striking of these objects is an edge-on galaxy that — because of a chance alignment — appears to interrupt the outermost spiral arm to the upper left of Messier 96's core.

This image was processed by ESO using the observational data found by Oleg Maliy from Ukraine, who participated in ESO's Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition [1], organised in October–November 2010, for everyone who enjoys making beautiful images of the night sky using astronomical data obtained with professional telescopes. The image was made with data taken at visible and infrared wavelengths through B, V, and I filters. 

Notes

[1] ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 competition gave amateur astronomers the opportunity to search through ESO’s vast archives of astronomical data, hoping to find a well-hidden gem that needed polishing by the entrants. To find out more about Hidden Treasures, visit http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/hiddentreasures/.

Credit:

ESO/Oleg Maliy

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About the Image

Id:potw1143a
Type:Observation
Release date:24 October 2011, 10:00
Size:2045 x 2044 px

About the Object

Name:Messier 96, NGC 3368
Type:• Local Universe : Galaxy : Type : Spiral
• X - Galaxies
Distance:35 million light years
Constellation:Leo

Image Formats

Screensize JPEG
219.6 KB

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Wallpapers

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241.2 KB
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458.9 KB
1600x1200
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1920x1200
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2048x1536
1.5 MB

Coordinates

Position (RA):10 46 45.76
Position (Dec):11° 49' 11.96"
Field of view:6.83 x 6.83 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 0.1° right of vertical
View in WorldWide Telescope:
View in WorldWide Telescope

Colours & filters

BandTelescope
Optical
B
Very Large Telescope
FORS1
Optical
V
Very Large Telescope
FORS1
Infrared
I
Very Large Telescope
FORS1

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