The largest member of the Leo I Group (which indeed is sometimes known as the 'M96 Group') a small group of galaxies on the fringes of the immense Virgo Supercluster. With nearby M95, M96 forms a pair of galaxies in the sky, and together with six other major galaxies (and a collection of lesser galactic structures) they make up the Leo I Group. In the sky, M96 falls slightly to the south of the seated form of Leo the Lion.
M96 lies about 32 million light years from the Milky Way, slightly farther than neighbouring M95. It is some 73,000 light years in diameter, making the entire spiral a little smaller than the Milky Way Galaxy.
Structurally the galaxy belongs to the SAB class of intermediate spirals; that is, spirals with a central bar that is not fully formed and distinct. In fact M96 has a double-barred structure, with one bar forming inside another, giving rise to a broad and bright central region feathered with the spiralling dust formations. These dark whorls reach out to a ring of brighter material, and from there tenuous arms spiral out into intergalactic space.