• Ville Miettinen

Galactic waltz

This small group of galaxies is located in the northern constellation of Leo. They are at a distance of about 35 million light-year's from Earth. All three of them are large spiral galaxies but they look very different to us because their galactic disks are inclined in different angles relative to our line of sight. Two of the galaxies were bright enough for Charles Messier to see and he catalogued them as Messier 65 and Messier 66 in 1780. The third galaxy however was too faint for him to see so it does not appear in his catalogue. William Herschel found the third and faintest of them four years later. This galaxy is called NGC3628 and from Earth it is seen edge-on. Which gives it its appearance that resembles a hamburger. In the photo below you can see it at the top of the picture. On lower left is M66 and on the right is M65.

All of the three galaxies in the photo are deformed by each others gravity, great example of this is appearance of the dust lane in NGC3628. It is tilted relative to the galaxy itself, which is result of gravitational pull caused by its galactic neighbors. Also you can see a very faint tidal stream coming from the galaxy approx. 11 o'clock. This caused by a close encounter billion years ago with Messier 66, it reaches out to space at a length of 300 000 light-year's. Slowly all three of these galaxies will get closer and closer in their galactic dance - eventually merging as one.