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Galaxy Distorted by Neighbors

Galaxy NGC 3627 is also known as Messier 66, i.e. it is the 66th object in the famous catalogue of nebulae by French astronomer Charles Messier (1730 - 1817). It is located in the constellation Leo (The Lion).

NGC 3627 is a beautiful spiral with a well-developed central bulge. It also displays large-scale dust lanes. Many regions of warm hydrogen gas are seen throughout the disc of this galaxy. The latter regions are being ionised by radiation from clusters of newborn stars. Very active star-formation is most likely also occurring in the nuclear regions of NGC 3627.

The galaxy forms, together with its neighbours M 65 and NGC 3628, the so-called "Leo Triplet"; they are located at a distance of about 35 million light-years. M 66 is the largest of the three. Its spiral arms appear distorted and displaced above the main plane of the galaxy. The asymmetric appearance is most likely due to gravitational interaction with its neighbours.