Skies By Africa

Images of the Heavens By Eric Africa

The Trio in Leo (or the Three Stooges?)

Trio in Leo
The Trio in Leo is a famous grouping of galaxies among amateur astronomers. Few major galaxies can be seen grouped together in the field of view of an 8" or larger telescope like these three. In this image can be seen M65 (upper right), M66 (lower right) and the dimmer NGC 3628 (lower left).

Like most galaxies within a few million light years of each other, the Trio in Leo are gravitationally interacting with each other and are destined to merge into one super galaxy eons from now. They have already encountered and interacted with each other in the past, which explains their distorted shapes (most notably M66's warped arms).

The idea of three galaxies interacting in this manner once made me think up some other famous trio. Looking at NGC 3628's dust lanes extending beyond its spiral arms gave me visions of a shock of hair at either side of someone's head ... someone like Larry of The Three Stooges! Following that lead, M65 has to be Moe, with its somewhat featureless arms being reminiscent of Moe's hairdo. And M66's distorted arms? Who else but Curly's as he goes "woo-woo-woo-woo-woo!"

So for your enjoyment, I present you my current depiction of the Trio in Leo (or the cosmic Three Stooges).
Constellation: Leo
When Visible: Feburary - July
Distance: 35 Million Light-years
Date: March - April 2011
Location: Rancho Hidalgo, Animas, New Mexico
Exposure Details:
L: 26 x 10 Minutes binned 1x1
R: 13 x 10 Minutes binned 1x1
G: 13 x 10 Minutes binned 1x1
B: 13 x 10 Minutes binned 1x1
Equipment Used: Takahashi TOA-130F on an Astro-Physics AP1200GTO mount. SBIG ST-6303E camera with FW8-STL filter wheel and Astrodon LRGB filters. Robofocus focuser and Astrodon Takometer rotator.
Acquisition Software : MaximDL 5, TheSky6, CCDAutopilot 4, FocusMax, Takometer Controller
Processing Software: MaximDL, Photoshop CS, Carboni Actions, Croman GradientXterminator, IrFanView
Prior Versions:
2005 Version. Takahashi FS-102 on a Takahashi EM200 Temma-2 mount. SBIG ST-8XE camera with CFW-8a filter wheel and Astrodon LRGB filters.  Acquired March/April 2005. 160 Minutes Luminance, 75 Minutes total RGB from West Chester, Ohio.