This is galaxy NGC 660, located some twenty million light-years away. It's a very rare type of galaxy known as a polar galaxy, where the vast majority of the galaxy is located at a right angle to its galactic plane.

The vast majority of galaxies have most of their material located on or near their galactic plane - that's kind of the whole point of calling something the galactic plane in the first place. But polar galaxies instead have most of their material clumped in rings that are perpendicular to the main disc, as a NASA astronomer explains:

NGC 660 lies near the center of this intriguing skyscape, swimming in the boundaries of the constellation Pisces. Over 20 million light-years away, its peculiar appearance marks it as a polar ring galaxy. A rare galaxy type, polar ring galaxies have a substantial population of stars, gas, and dust orbiting in rings nearly perpendicular to the plane of the galactic disk. The bizarre configuration could have been caused by the chance capture of material from a passing galaxy by the disk galaxy, with the captured debris strung out in a rotating ring. The polar ring component can be used to explore the shape of the galaxy's otherwise unseen dark matter halo by calculating the dark matter's gravitational influence on the rotation of the ring and disk. Broader than the disk, NGC 660's ring spans about 40,000 light-years.



Share This Story

Get our newsletter