This image of Messier 66 is a composite of separate exposures acquired by the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).
Messier 66 is an intermediate spiral galaxy some 31 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo.
It was discovered on March 1, 1780 by the French astronomer Charles Messier, who described it as ‘very long and very faint.’
Also known as M66, NGC 3627, Arp 16, IRAS 11176+1315, LEDA 34695 and UGC 6346, it has a diameter of 95,000 light-years.
Messier 66 has a spiral shape with a weak bar feature and loosely wound arms.
Along with Messier 65 and NGC 3628, it belongs to the Leo Triplet of galaxies (M66 group).
Messier 66 is also a member of a large group of galaxies called the NGC 3627 group.
“Messier 66 appears to be expelling flames out of its majestic spiral arms in the new picture,” ESO astronomers said in a statement.
“The ‘fire’ actually marks clouds of cold molecular gas, which is the material out of which stars form, and has been captured using ALMA.”
“The bluish regions in the background reveal the pattern of older, already formed stars, imaged by the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope.”
Messier 66 was observed as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) project.
“PHANGS is making high-resolution observations of nearby galaxies with telescopes operating across all colors or wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum,” the researchers said.
“Different wavelengths can reveal a multitude of secrets about a galaxy, and by comparing them astronomers are able to study what triggers, boosts or hinders the birth of new stars.”
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