Nov 8, 2007

Beautiful Messier 96 or M96 Galaxy

A beauty in space! This is Messier 96 (M96, NGC 3368), a conspicuous spiral galaxy in constellation Leo. M96 is the brightest member of the Leo I group of galaxies, which is therefore also called the M96 group, and also includes M95, M105 as well as a number of fainter galaxies.

Pierre M├ęchain discovered M96, together with M95, on March 20, 1781. Consequently, Charles Messier included it in his catalog on March 24, 1781. It was among the first spirals that have been discovered, and listed by Lord Rosse as one of 14 "spiral nebulae" discovered to 1850.

M96 (right) and M95 (left)

Its distance was determined to be about 41 million light years (after corrections for the distance scale which are implied by the results of ESA's Hipparcos satellite) by Nial R. Tanvir with the Hubble Space Telescope by observing Cepheid variables. Link


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