Messier 96 is an imperfect, intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation of Leo, at a distance of approximately 30 million light years. It is a highly asymmetric galaxy – the gas and dust is not evenly spread through its spiral arms, and the core doesn’t appear to be exactly at the galaxy’s centre. This is thought to have arisen due to interactions with other nearby galaxies (eg M95 which is about 40′ to the west of M96 from our viewpoint).
The spiral arms show bright knots of young hot stars (more easily visible in colour images) indicating recent starbirth, and visible through the outer dusty reaches are many background galaxies including the edge on galaxy 2MFGC 8391 shown here to the lower right (north-east) of the centre of M96.
Also in this image is my current distance record (though not something I’ve tried to push!) – QSO J104619.26+115223.4 is present (and annotated in the image shown) – this quasar has a measured redshift of z=2.83, placing it at a distance of of 11.4 billion light years (light travel time) in our current best estimates of the universe’s parameters. This quasar shines dimly at a magnitude of 20.5 in the R band. Somewhat closer to home, but equally faint, is the dwarf galaxy Leo 15 (also annotated).
The image was taken on 22 Feb 2018 and 13-14 March 2018 and consists of 7hrs of exposure through the luminance filter (84 x 5min subexposures) using an ST2000XM on a 350mm Newtonian at 1584mm focal length. Processing and reduction took place in Pixinsight.
Weather was very poor this spring and I had no chance to get any decent colour data to produce a finished LRGB version – will have to hold this one over until next year…
Field (25’x18.6′) centred at:
RA: 10h 46m 44s
Dec: +11° 49′ 23″
Up is 184° E of N