Nearby and bright, spiral galaxies M65 (top) and M66 stand out in this engaging cosmic snapshot. The pair are just 35 million light-years distant and around 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own spiral Milky Way. While both exhibit prominent dust lanes sweeping along their broad spiral arms, M66 in particular is a striking contrast in red and blue hues; the telltale pinkish glow of hydrogen gas in star forming regions and young blue star clusters. M65 and M66 make up two thirds of the well-known Leo Triplet of galaxies with warps and tidal tails that offer evidence of the group’s past close encounters. The larger M66 has been host to four supernovae discovered since 1973.
Image credit & copyright: Bill Snyder (Heavens Mirror Observatory)
M65 Recoiless Nuclear Rifle. Also referred to as the M28, M29, or "Davy Crockett,“ the weapon was either hand carried or mounted on a jeep. The M65 was tested once in 1962 but suffered from a fatal flaw. Despite utilizing among the smallest nuclear warheads ever built (as low as 10 tons and as high as 1 kilotons), the effective range of 3 miles was within the fallout radius of the payload, meaning that unless the wind was at their backs, the crew of the weapon would be exposing themselves to nuclear fallout.
NATO commanders objected to issuing the weapon to soldiers in Europe on the grounds that doing so would restrict their ability to defend themselves without resorting to nuclear weapons. Some members of the West German administration, however, were serious proponents of the weapon’s deployment in defending Germany.
The pictures above were taken at the United States Army Ordinance Museum.
This popular group is famous as the Leo Triplet - a gathering of three magnificent galaxies in one field of view. Crowd pleasers when imaged with even modest telescopes, they can be introduced individually as NGC 3628 (left), M66 (bottom right), and M65 (top). All three are large spiral galaxies but they tend to look dissimilar because their galactic disks are tilted at different angles to our line of sight. NGC 3628 is seen edge-on, with obscuring dust lanes cutting across the plane of the galaxy, while the disks of M66 and M65 are both inclined enough to show off their spiral structure. Gravitational interactions between galaxies in the group have also left telltale signs, including the warped and inflated disk of NGC 3628 and the drawn out spiral arms of M66. This gorgeous view of the region spans about one degree (two full moons) on the sky. The field covers over 500 thousand light-years at the trio’s estimated distance of 30 million light-years.
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