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VST Looks at the Leo Triplet - and Beyond

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A huge image, from the new VLT Survey Telescope (VST) and its camera OmegaCAM at ESO's Paranal Observatory, shows a triplet of bright galaxies in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). But the faint objects in the background, rather than the foreground galaxies, are what may capture an astronomer's attention. The VST's sharp view of these dim objects hints at the power of the telescope and OmegaCAM for mapping the distant Universe.
The VST is the newest addition to ESO's Paranal Observatory. It is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre telescope, which is equipped with a giant 268-megapixel camera, OmegaCAM. As the name indicates, the VST is dedicated to surveying the skies in visible light, and it is the largest telescope in the world designed exclusively for this purpose. This large view of the Leo Triplet demonstrates the excellent quality of images produced by the VST and its camera.

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Hubble snaps heavyweight of the Leo Triplet

Hubble has snapped a spectacular view of the largest "player" in the Leo Triplet, a galaxy with an unusual anatomy: it displays asymmetric spiral arms and an apparently displaced core. The peculiar anatomy is most likely caused by the gravitational pull of the other two members of the trio.
The unusual spiral galaxy, Messier 66, is located at a distance of about 35 million light-years in the constellation of Leo. Together with Messier 65 and NGC 3628, Messier 66 is one third of the Leo Triplet, a trio of interacting spiral galaxies, part of the larger Messier 66 group. Messier 66 wins out in size over its fellow triplets - it is about 100 000 light-years across.

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Messier 66

Date: 22:06 UT, 17 July, 2009.
Exposure: 2 minutes.


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Messier 66

Date: 22:15 UT, 13 July, 2009.
Exposure: 2 minutes.


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Stunning "first-light" astronomical images have just been produced by a University-led instrument on board the Herschel Space Observatory.
On June 24 2009, the SPIRE instrument - a submillimetre camera and spectrometer designed and built by an international consortium led by scientists at the School of Physics and Astronomy - was able to observe the sky for the first time since its launch in May.

SPIRE images of the two galaxies showing long wavelength light
SPIRE images of the two galaxies showing long wavelength light emitted by dust in clouds where star formation is active. Significantly, the frames are also filled with many other galaxies which are much more distant and only show up as point sources.

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Credit ESO

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This famous group of spiral galaxies is known as the Leo Triplet; NGC 3628 (top), Messier 66 (bottom left), and Messier 65 (bottom right).
The field of view is 2 degrees.


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They can be seen in even quite small telescopes.
Gravitational interactions between galaxies in the group can be seen in the warped and inflated disk of NGC 3628 and the drawn out spiral arms of M66.
M66 (NGC 3627), spans about 100,000 light years, lies about 35 million light years distant, is the largest galaxy in the group and one of the brightest (magnitude 8.9).

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