In 1780, Charles Messier discovered spiral galaxy M66 along with its neighbor M65, both of which belong to the Leo Triplet of galaxies. (The third member, NGC 3628, was discovered by William Herschel in 1784 and is not included in the Messier catalog). M66 is located 35 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo and has an apparent magnitude of 8.9. Best observed during April, M66 can be spotted with a small telescope.
Showing a large portion of M66, this Hubble photo is a composite of images obtained at visible and infrared wavelengths. The images have been combined to represent the real colors of the galaxy.
This view highlights the fascinating anatomy of M66. Because the galaxies in the Leo Triplet interact with one another, each has an effect on its neighbors’ structures. M66 displays asymmetric spiral arms and a core that appears to be off center — features likely caused by the gravitational pull of the other two galaxies in the Leo Triplet.
For more information about Hubble’s observations of M66, see: