Featured in The Astrophotographer's Guidebook.
Featured in Amateur Astrophotography Magazine - Issue 61
This was not planned, but while pointing the telescope at M95, we saw several fuzzy blobs of light and decided to take a picture of it because - why not? With a single shot, we discovered much more, and decided to check out the area in Stellarium and recenter everything properly so we could get as many galaxies as possible!
M96 Group Breakdown
The M96 Group, also known as the Leo I Group, is a group of galaxies located in the constellation Leo. It's named after its brightest member, Messier 96 - which is a spiral galaxy. The small galaxy group is located about 38 million light-years away from Earth. It is part of the larger Virgo Supercluster, which encompasses several galaxy clusters and groups like Markarian's Chain, M81 & M82, IC 3442 (the Hidden Galaxy), and more.
There are several objects within this group and more than we list below. The most prominent deep-sky objects within the M96 Group include:
Messier 95 (M95): Messier 95 is a barred spiral galaxy. It is one of the prominent members of the. This galaxy is characterized by its distinctive barred structure, with a central bar-shaped feature crossing its bright core. It's a faint object that is difficult to spot.
Messier 96 (M96): This is the brightest and most well-known member of the group. It is a barred spiral galaxy with distinctive spiral arms and a bright core. M96 is often a target for astrophotographers due to its beautiful structure and relatively close proximity.
Messier 105 (M105): Located near M96, Messier 105 is an elliptical galaxy. It is relatively faint compared to M96 but still visible with moderate-sized telescopes. M105 is interesting due to its smooth, featureless appearance, typical of elliptical galaxies.
NGC 3384: This elliptical galaxy is another member of the M96 Group. It is relatively bright and compact, showcasing a smooth, round appearance without prominent spiral arms.
NGC 3379 (M105A): Positioned close to M105, NGC 3379 is an elliptical galaxy. It is larger and more massive than M105, exhibiting a similar featureless elliptical shape.
NGC 3377: Another member of the M96 Group, NGC 3377 is a lenticular galaxy. It lies close to M105 and showcases a flattened disk shape, intermediate between elliptical and spiral galaxies.
These deep-sky objects within the M96 Group provide astrophotographers with a range of galaxy types to capture. From the beautiful spiral arms of M96 to the smooth elliptical appearances of M105, NGC 3384, NGC 3379, and NGC 3377, astrophotographers will find a variety of structures and characteristics to explore within this galaxy group.
Camera: Canon t3i
Telescope: 8" Astrograph f/3.9
Mount: Equatorial Motorized Mount
Guiding: Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope
Total Exposure Time: 2.3 hours
Exposure Time per frame: 6 minutes
23 lights - 18 Darks - 111 Bias
How to Locate the M96 Group
Galaxies in the M96 Group are too faint and impossible to see with the naked eye. They are also extremely difficult to spot with binoculars. If you tried, you would need very large ones.
M95 is one of the faintest Messier objects in the entire catalog, so the best way to look at this target is through a telescope. Most telescopes will only show the core with faint gas around it, but large instruments under perfectly dark skies will reveal more detail in the spiral arms.
The M96 Group is located in the constellation of Leo. To find it, start from Regulus, the brightest star of the constellation, then make your way in a straight line to Denebola, which is also in Leo. You should cross over the M96 group about one-third of the way there.
M95 is receding from the Milky Way at 778 km/s
M95 is one of the faintest objects in the Messier Catalog
M96 is the brightest and largest member of the M96 Group
Two down, 108 to go. Learn about all 110 Messier objects in this post.
Processing the M96 Group
Because of their small size and a great amount of detail, each galaxy is best photographed with a large telescope, such as 12” or bigger. If using an 8” telescope or smaller, like us, you can center the view right in between M96 and M95. By doing so, you will be able to capture several galaxies from the M96 Group.
Processing can be a little tricky in the sense that you need to keep an eye on each of those galaxies and keep their brightness, saturation, and crispness similar to each other.
Receding from the Milky Way at 778 km/s
One of the faintest objects in the Messier Catalog
Contains about 40 billion stars
Receding from the Milky Way at 897 km/s
The brightest and largest member of the M96 Group
Contains about 100 billion stars
Messier 105 (Top right)
NGC 3384 and NGC 3389 can be seen next to M105
Surrounded by Hydrogen Gas
Discovered in 1781
The M96 Group is a very impressive group of galaxies that are fairly easy to capture. We only spent a couple of hours on it and the result is pretty good!
Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep-sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!