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ESO telescope zooms in on triplet galaxy

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NGC 3628, at the left of the image, is seen edge-on, with thick dust lanes along the plane of the galaxy. The Messier objects M 65 (upper right) and M 66 (lower right), on the other hand, are inclined enough to make their spiral arms visible. An ESO photo

PARIS (BNS): European Southern Observatory’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) has captured a magnificent image of a triplet galaxy in the constellation of Leo (The Lion).

The three bright interacting galaxies, located about 35 million light-years from Earth, are named NGC 3628, Messier objects M 65 and M 66. All three of them are spiral galaxies like our Milky Way.

What interests more to the astronomers in the foreground of the image, however, is the many point-like stars of varied brightness belonging to our own Milky Way galaxy.

Since one of the objectives of the VST mission is to search for very faint objects such as brown dwarf stars, planets, neutron stars and black holes believed to permeate the halo of our Milky Way galaxy, the new findings are expected to further deepen astronomers’ understanding of dark matter, which is thought to be the largest constituent of the galactic halo.

The latest image, very much closer to home, also contains the tracks of several asteroids within the Solar System that have moved across the images during the exposures.

As Leo is a zodiacal constellation, lying in the plane of the Solar System, the number of asteroids is particularly high.

The VLT telescope will discover distant galaxy clusters and high-redshift quasars that will help astronomers understand the early Universe and find answers to long-standing questions in cosmology.

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ESO  Galaxy  
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