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💫Leo and Arp 87

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A wide-field image showing the constellation of Leo. The interacting galaxy pair, Arp 87, is located to the left of the image above Leos's "hind legs". Leo is one of the constellations of the zodiac, lying between Cancer the crab to the west and Virgo the maiden to the east. Its name is Latin for lion, and to the ancient Greeks represented the Nemean Lion killed by the mythical Greek hero Heracles (known to the ancient Romans as Hercules) as one of his twelve labors. One of the 48 constellations described by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy, Leo remains one of the 88 modern constellations today, and one of the most easily recognizable due to its many bright stars and a distinctive shape that is reminiscent of the crouching lion it depicts. The lion's mane and shoulders also form an asterism known as "The Sickle," which to modern observers may resemble a backwards "question mark." The Leonids occur in November, peaking on November 14–15, and have a radiant close to Gamma Leonis. Its parent body is Comet Tempel-Tuttle, which causes significant outbursts every 35 years. The normal peak rate is approximately 10 meteors per hour.

Leo contains many bright galaxies; Messier 65, Messier 66, Messier 95, Messier 96, Messier 105, and NGC 3628 are the most famous, the first two being part of the Leo Triplet. The Leo Ring, a cloud of hydrogen and helium gas, is found in orbit of two galaxies found within this constellation. NGC 2903 is a barred spiral galaxy discovered by William Herschel in 1784. It is very similar in size and shape to the Milky Way and is located 25 million light-years from Earth. In its core, NGC 2903 has many "hotspots", which have been found to be near regions of star formation. The star formation in this region is thought to be due to the presence of the dusty bar, which sends shock waves through its rotation to an area with a diameter of 2,000 light-years. The outskirts of the galaxy have many young open clusters. A pair of galaxies, known collectively as Arp 87, is one of hundreds of interacting and merging galaxies known in our nearby Universe. Arp 87 was catalogued by astronomer Halton Arp in the 1960's. Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies is a compilation of astronomical photographs using the Palomar 200-inch Hale and the 48-inch Samuel Oschin telescopes.

Credit: A. Fujii

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