Best of AOP - Galaxies

M96

M96 is the brightest member of the "Leo I" group of galaxies. This group (specifically M96) is 38 million light years away. If the outermost spiral arms are taken into account, the galaxy spans 100,000 light years in diameter. This image also contains many smaller galaxies (some of which may be near to M96). Most intriguing is the edge-on galaxy near the top of the image. Given its greatly reddened appearence, it would be a good guess that this galaxy is behind M96 and we are peering through the intervening clouds of gas and dust (in M96) to see it. Indeed, if we assumed this edge-on galaxy is roughly the same size as M96, it would be 3-4 times more distant. Note the many delicate dust lanes near the nucleus that seem to swirl ever-inward towards the brilliant stellar core. M96 has recently had supernovae explode in it. HST has also directly observed Cepheid variables in this galaxy. Together these two observations are important because they can be used to calibrate distance indicators on galactic scales (the distance as measured by supernovae in M96 agrees with the distance as measured by Cepheid variables). Also check out its neighbor M95.

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Last Updated: 24-Feb-2014

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About This Image

Click on image for larger version.

Equipment

20in RC Optical Systems telescope Operating at f/8.1

Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount

SBIG ST10XME CCD camera with color filter wheel

LRGB color production was used to create this image.

Fairly aggressive non-linear techniques were employed to display the core and the outer arms (as resolved

structures) at the same time. Unlike M81, for which a  brilliant core seems a more aesthetic choice, M96 looks

best with a stellar core and the thin dust lanes spiraling in.

Two iterations of L-R deconvolution (sharpening) algorithm using CCDsharp were applied to the luminance image.

Digital Development (DDP) via Maxim/DL was also used in order to display the very dim and very bright details of

the image simultaneously.

Luminance = 110 minutes binned 1x1

Red = 20 minutes binned 2x2

Green = 20 minutes binned 2x2

Blue = 30 minutes binned 2x2

Minimum credit line: Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF