Leo Triplet

Famous as the Leo Triplet, the three magnificent galaxies gather in one field of view. They are NGC 3628 (left-bottom), M66 (center right), and M65 (top). All three are large spiral galaxies but they tend to look dissimilar because their galactic disks are tilted at different angles to our line of sight. NGC 3628, also known as the Hamburger Galaxy, is temptingly seen edge-on, with obscuring dust lanes cutting across its puffy galactic plane. The disks of M66 and M65 are both inclined enough to show off their spiral structure. Gravitational interactions between galaxies in the group have left telltale signs, including the tidal tails and warped, inflated disk of NGC 3628 and the drawn out spiral arms of M66. This view of the region spans almost two degrees (four full moons) on the sky. The field covers almost a million light-years at the trio’s estimated distance of 30 million light-years. Of course the spiky foreground stars lie within our own Milky Way.

My telescope set up takes only 0.5 degrees in one image (i.e. one full Moon size). However this is a much larger area, so I took 4 sets of images and then joined them together. In other words, it’s a 4 panel mosaic. Clearly, it takes a while to do this. Each set was taken for 14 luminance image of 20 minutes each and supplemented with 7 images each of 20 minutes of each color, thereby accumulating data for each part of the 4-part panel for 8 hours, for a total of 32 hours on this image!

Leave a Reply