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Saturday, November 10, 2012

The polar ring galaxy NGC 660

This symphony data of broadband and narrowband, obtained by the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea, shows the galaxy NGC 660. Besides being a 20 million light years away and within the limits of the constellation Pisces, the unusual aspect of NGC 660 is identified as a polar ring galaxy.

The polar ring galaxies, rare galaxies have a substantial population of stars, gas and dust orbiting in rings nearly perpendicular to the plane of the galactic disk. 

These strange appearance settings could have been caused by accidental capture of material from a passing galaxy near the galactic disk so that, eventually, the remains were strung on a ring. The violent gravitational interaction explains the myriad of pink star forming regions that are scattered along the ring of NGC 660.

The polar ring component can also be used to study the form of invisible dark matter halo of the galaxy: we calculate the gravitational influence of dark matter on the rotation of the ring and disk.

The ring of NGC 660, wider than the disc, spans over 50,000 light years.

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