The Leo Triplet of Galaxies, M65, M66 and NGC 3628

Leo abounds with interesting little groups of galaxies set amidst the foreground stars of our own Milky Way galaxy. Below is the Leo Triplet, a lovely collection of spiral galaxies displayed in various angles of orientation; going clockwise from top left there is M65 (obliquely angled), M66 (almost face-on) and NGC 3628 (edge-on). M66 and NGC 3268 have clearly had a close interaction in the past as indicated by the tidal tails and burst of star forming evident in the spiral arms of M66 and NGC 3268's distorted dust lanes, "fluffy" ends and the faint tidal tail heading off 10's of thousands of light years into space to lower right. M65 seems to have escaped such an encounter as its faintly defined, symmetrical, spiral structure and crisp dust lane remain intact. Distance: 35 million ly. 

Also visible in the image are numerous distant background galaxies.

 

Camera: SBIG STL11000M, Astrodon filters Scope: Takahashi TOA-130, f=1000mm, f7.7, with field flattener (cropped to fov ~1.5 x 1.0)
Mount: Takahashi EM-200 Temma2 Guiding: external, E-finder
Filters/Exposures: L:R:G:B = 130:50:50:50min3h40m Location: ASV's Leon Mow Dark Sky Site, Heathcote, Victoria, Australia
Date: March 2015 Processing: CCDStack2, RegiStar and Photoshop CS5