M65, M66, and NGC 3628 form a beautiful and easy to pluck target from the constellation Leo. Often called the Leo Triplets, Arp classified these as “peculiar galaxies” and noted them as Arp 16. There is some indication these galaxies may have interacted at some point in the past. At about 35 million light years distant, these galaxies are relatively nearby and therefore bright, popular amateur targets. All around magnitude 10, and several arc minutes in apparent length, they are very easy to image with the most modest equipment. Another popular group in Leo is the M95/M96 group — perhaps another night!

In this image, the upper right shows M65, the bottom right M66, and the left shows NGC 3628.

The Leo Triplets

The Leo Triplets

Here, I used 8x 10 minute exposures with the Televue NP101is. Captured in MaximDL, stacked in Nebulosity and finalized in CS5. Images captured Feb 1, 2011. Unfortunately, a lot of speckling seems to have found itself into the image of NGC 3628 — but not too bad for a few hours work!

However, now I’ve got a big, bright moon out. Maybe it’s time to lay off the galactic excitement and look for some planetary bodies…

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