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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Barred Spiral Galaxy M95 as seen by the VLT

Barred Spiral Galaxy M95 as seen by the VLT
Click on the image for full resolution (2.2 MB)

The Very Large Telescope has captured another member of the Leo I group of galaxies, in the constellation of Leo. The galaxy M95 (Messier 95) stands boldly face-on, offering an ideal view of its spiral structure. The spiral arms form an almost perfect circle around the galactic centre before they spread out, creating a mane-like effect of which any lion would be proud. Another, perhaps even more striking, feature of Messier 95 is its blazing golden core. It contains a nuclear star-forming ring, almost 2000 light-years across, where a large proportion of the galaxy's star formation takes place. This phenomenon occurs mostly in barred spiral galaxies such as Messier 95 and our home, the Milky Way. In the Leo I group, Messier 95 is outshone by its brother Messier 96. Messier 96 is in fact the brightest member of the group and - as "leader of the pride" - also gives Leo I its alternative name of the M 96 group. Nevertheless, Messier 95 also makes for a spectacular image. Stop press! By coincidence Messier 95 is the host of a probable supernova that was first spotted on 17 March 2012. Discovery details are here. And as another coincidence both supernova and galaxy are currently very close to the brilliant planet Mars amongst the stars of Leo.
The full resolution image weighs 2.2 MB, so please be patient when downloading!
Credit: ESO
Image enhancement: Jean-Baptiste Faure

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