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New Hubble image: Spiral galaxy M96

In this image, the galaxy resembles a whirlpool of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the galactic nucleus or core.

View larger. | This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows Messier 96, a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation of Leo.

View larger. | New NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope of Messier 96, a spiral galaxy. Image via ESA/Hubble & NASA and the LEGUS Team, Acknowledgement: R. Gendler

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) released this new Hubble image on Friday, September 4, 2015. It’s Messier 96 – called M96 by astronomers – a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation of Leo the Lion. It’s about the same mass and size as our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

Astronomer Pierre Méchain first discovered this galaxy in 1781, and Charles Messier added it to his famous catalog of astronomical objects just four days later. Hence its designation (Messier 96). ESA wrote in a statement:

The galaxy resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the nucleus. Messier 96 is a very asymmetric galaxy; its dust and gas are unevenly spread throughout its weak spiral arms, and its core is not exactly at the galactic center. Its arms are also asymmetrical, thought to have been influenced by the gravitational pull of other galaxies within the same group as Messier 96.

This group, named the M96 Group, also includes the bright galaxies Messier 105 and Messier 95, as well as a number of smaller and fainter galaxies. It is the nearest group containing both bright spirals and a bright elliptical galaxy (Messier 105).

Bottom line: M96, or Messier 96, a spiral galaxy in a new Hubble Space Telescope image.

Via NASA and ESA

Deborah Byrd

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