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This new Hubble Space Telescope shows M96 (Messier 96), a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). It is of about the same mass and size as the Milky Way. It was first discovered by astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1781, and added to Charles Messier's famous catalogue of astronomical objects just four days later. The galaxy resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the nucleus. M96 is a very asymmetric galaxy; its dust and gas is 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 M96. This group, named the M96 Group, also includes the bright galaxies M105 and M95, as well as a number of smaller and fainter galaxies. It is the nearest group containing both bright spirals and a bright elliptical galaxy (M105).
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA and the LEGUS Team
Acknowledgement: R. Gendler