Categories: Gemini

Galactic Struggle Captured by Gemini Observatory

The Gemini Multi-Object Spectroraph on the Fredrick C. Gillett Gemini North Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii captured this beautiful image of the ring galaxy NGC 660. The galaxy lies about 40 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Pisces the Fishes. The field of view of the zoomed out image is 9.3×5.6 arcminutes. North is to the right and east is up. Total exposure for the image for all filters was 1,620 seconds. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA.

Strings of gas and dust, the wreckage of a colossal galactic struggle, lie strewn and littered about polar-ring galaxy NGC 660 in this new image from the Gemini Observatory.

Zoom around the ring of stars, stop to dive into massive star clusters and pink nebulae rich with the birth of new stars. Astronomers have found only a few of these bizarre objects. Most are made up of an early-type spiral galaxy, known as a lenticular galaxy, surrounded by a vast ring of stars extending for tens of thousands of light-years nearly perpendicular to the plane of the main galaxy. NGC 660, however, is the only polar-ring galaxy with a late-type lenticular galaxy as host.

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NGC 660 was captured with the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph on the Fredrick C. Gillett Gemini North Telescope atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano.

How these gossamer rings around their host galaxies form mystifies astronomers. One current model pits one galaxy piercing the heart of another galaxy. The enormous tidal tug of gravity strips stars and gas and scatters them into the huge ring. NGC 660’s ring extends across 40,000 light-years.

As a bonus to the awesome display of galactic tug-of-war, pan across the dozens of faraway background galaxies. Another bonus is the story continues with tales of galactic violence and dark matter. Check it out here.

Source: Gemini Observatory

John Williams

John Williams is owner of TerraZoom, a Colorado-based web development shop specializing in web mapping and online image zooms. He also writes the award-winning blog, StarryCritters, an interactive site devoted to looking at images from NASA's Great Observatories and other sources in a different way. A long-time science writer and space enthusiast, he created award-winning Hubble Star Cards. Use coupon code UNIVERSE to Hold the Universe in your hands. Follow John on Twitter @terrazoom.

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