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Spiral Galaxy M96

Dust lanes seem to swirl around the core of Messier 96 in this colorful, detailed portrait of the center of a beautiful island universe. M96 is a spiral galaxy with a diameter of 100 thousand light-years or so, making it about the size of our own Milky Way. M96, also known as NGC 3368, is about 35 million light-years distant and a dominant member of the Leo I galaxy group. The reason for M96's asymmetry is unclear—it could have arisen from gravitational interactions with other Leo I group galaxies, but the lack of an intra-group diffuse glow seems to indicate few recent interactions.

Galaxies far in the background can be found by examining the edges of the picture.

The image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

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