M96 on Spin Cycle

A galactic maelstrom

Image Credit & Copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope & Robert Gendler Image & IAU Leo Constellation Map.

If you live in the spiral galaxy, M96 here’s what your home looked like 35 million years ago. Then again, you’re going to have to wait 35 million more years to get this message so double it……that’s, if the galaxy is in the same location by then, which it won’t be and this message will then miss you completely. My bad.

As I said, this beautiful, almost circular spiral galaxy resides 35 million light years away and in the constellation Leo (The Lion). It’s located within and is the prime member of the M 96 group of galaxies. As you can see in this image, it may be circular; sort of, but inside its very asymmetrical and you don’t see the clear, well defined spiral arms you find in the majority of spiral galaxies and the nucleus isn’t located directly in the center where one would expect it. Also, aside from a beautiful ring of brilliant star formation, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot anywhere else. The inner region with its yellow hue of ancient yellow stars and swirling dust lanes for the most part, seem pretty quiet until you reach the nucleus.

These features indicate that it may have undergone tidal interactions with a neighbor (Likely NGC 3384) a billion years or so ago. Of course, none of this has yet been confirmed.


NAME: Messier 96, M96, New General Catalogue 3368, NGC 3368.

WHAT IS IT?: Spiral galaxy.

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 35 million light years.

HOW BIG IS IT?: 2.7’ x 2.7’ arcminutes on the night sky and roughly 100,000 light years in diameter.

DISCOVERY: Pierre Mechain on March 20, 1781 and added to Charles Messier’s catalog of non-comets just four days later.

APPARENT MAGNITUDE: a pretty dim 10 or +10.

WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Leo (The Lion) within the Messier 96 Group of galaxies.

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 10h 46m 45.86s / DEC 11° 49′ 11.49″.

ESA Space Telescope (Hubble) page for this image: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1535a/

International Astronomical Union (IAU) Constellation Maps: http://www.iau.org/public/themes/constellations/

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