The Leo Triplet has to be one of the most mesmerising celestial targets that can fit in a single telescope field of view.
Consisting of 3 beautiful galaxies M66 and M65 (from the Messier Catalogue) and NGC 3628, each member of the Leo Triplet is a spiral galaxy, although it may not initially appear as though this is the case.
Each galaxy looks as though it belongs in a different galactic category from its neighbour, but this is because they are all tilted at different angles from our perspective on Earth.
NGC 3628 is the thin-looking galaxy, appearing edge-on through Earth-based telescopes.
While this edge-on view hides the galaxy’s spiral structure from us, what is visible is the thick, dark dust lanes cutting through the galactic plane and hot young stars glowing bright blue.
One other thing to note in the case of NGC 3628 is its warped and bulged appearance: likely a result of gravitational interactions between the 3 galaxies.
NGC 3628’s appearance has earned it the nickname ‘the Hamburger Galaxy’ among astronomers.
Leo Triplet, Miroslav Horvat, Petrova Gora, Croatia, 21 April 2017. Equipment: QHY8 Pro CCD camera, Sky-Watcher Explorer-200P reflector, Sky-Watcher NEQ6 Pro SynScan mount.
M66 (the lower of the two remaining) and M65 are angled more favourably in terms of displaying their spiral structure, and their distinct arms can clearly be seen in most astro images of the target.
M66 is slightly asymmetrical, however: again as a result of the gravitational tug-of-war playing out between the 3 galaxies.
The Leo Triplet is located about 30 million lightyears from Earth in the Leo constellation that gives this iconic galaxy grouping its nickname.
Below is a selection of images captured by BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers and astrophotographers from across the globe.
If you’re interested in learning more about astrophotography, read our expert astrophotography guides or find out how to fine-tune your captures with image processing.
And don’t forget to send us your images. You can also share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Leo Triplet by Peter Rea, Appley Bridge, Wigan, 16 March 2021. Equipment: ZWO ASI 533MC Pro colour camera, Altair 72mm EDF refractor, Sky-Watcher HEQ5 mount
Leo Triplet by Mukund Raguram, Lake Sonoma, California, 21 March 2020
Equipment: ZWO ASI 1600MM camera, Explore Scientific ED127 apo refractor, EQ6-R Pro mount
Leo Triplet by Jamie Bowring, Devon, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher Explorer 150p, EQ3/2 Unguided, Canon EOS30d.
Leo Triplet LRGB by Dave Trewren, Bristol, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 120ED, HEQ5 Pro, QHY9M + filter wheel, Skywatcher 80ST, StarShoot autoguider, Focusing SharpSky.
Leo Triplet by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: Nikon D7000 DSLR, Meade 5000 127mm refractor, EQ6.
M65 M66 NGC3628 Galaxy Trio in Leo by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK. Equipment: Celestron c11 sct, skywatcher NEQ6 pro mount, Canon Eos 1100d self-modified and Astronomik CLS CCD clip filter.
Leo Triplet by Guy Walsh, Preston, Lancashire, UK. Equipment: APM 107 Super Apo, Riccardi Reducer/Flattener.
The Leo Triplet (M65, M66, NGC 3628) with supernova SN2013am by Jeff Burgess, Musselburgh, Scotland, UK. Equipment: TS 80mm Triplet refractor, NEQ6 PRO, Astro modified Canon 1000D.
M65/M66/NGC3628 Leo Galaxy Trio by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK. Equipment: GSO 8″ Richey-Chretien Optical tube, Skywatcher NEQ6 pro mount,Atik 383L+ camera, motorised filter wheel and Astronomik LRGB filters.
The Leo Triplet by Chris Grimmer, Seething, Norfolk, UK. Equipment: William Optics GT81 Triplet, SXVR H694 mono CCD, Strodon LRGB filters, Ioptron CEM60 Mount
Leo Triplet by Álvaro Ibáñez Pérez, Pioz, Guadalajara, Spain. Equipment: TS 115 Triplet APO Refractor, NEW6 Pro II Tuning Belts, TS Optics 0,79x, ATIK 460ex Mono, Lunatico EZG60 + SXLodestar, Robofocus
Leo Triplet by Tim Schafer, Bishops Stortford, Herts, UK. Equipment: Astro modified Canon 100D, Skywatcher 150 pds, HEQ5 mount, Lacerta MGEN autoguider.
Leo Triplets by Alison Bossaert, Kielder Star Camp, Sunderland, UK. Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR camera, Sky-Watcher 200pds
Leo Triplet – LRGB by Simon Todd, Haywards Heath, UK. Equipment: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8-CF F4 Imaging Newtonian, Atik Cameras 383L+ Mono CCD, Sky-Watcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector, Qhyccd QHY5L-II, Celestron Telescopes C80ED Refractor, Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro, Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm USB EFW, Baader Planetarium LRGB + 7NM HA