Dust lanes seem to swirl around the core of Messier 96 in this picture of the beautiful island universe M96. Of course M96 is a spiral galaxy, and counting the faint arms extending beyond the brighter central region it spans 100 thousand light-years or so, about the size of our own Milky Way. M96 is known to be 38 million light-years distant, a dominant member of the Leo I galaxy group. 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.
Background galaxies and smaller Leo I group members can be found by examining the picture, but I am most intrigued by the edge-on spiral galaxy that apparently lies behind the outer spiral arm near the 10 o’clock position. The edge-on spiral appears to be about 1/5 the size of M96. If the spiral is similar in actual size to M96, then it lies about 5 times farther away.
I took this image over 7.5 hours (10 Luminance of 30 minutes each and 5 images of 20 minutes each of RGB colors).
Also, this image is cropped at about 50%.