Polar Ring Galaxy NGC 660’s a Cosmic Anomaly

A single odd galaxy in a group of around a dozen or so extremely rare, bizarre island universes 

This new Hubble image shows a peculiar galaxy known as NGC 660, located around 45 million light-years away from us. NGC 660 is classified as a "polar ring galaxy", meaning that it has a belt of gas and stars around its centre that it ripped from a near neighbour during a clash about one billion years ago. The first polar ring galaxy was observed in 1978 and only around a dozen more have been discovered since then, making them something of a cosmic rarity. Unfortunately, NGC 660’s polar ring cannot be seen in this image, but has plenty of other features that make it of interest to astronomers – its central bulge is strangely off-kilter and, perhaps more intriguingly, it is thought to harbour exceptionally large amounts of dark matter. In addition, in late 2012 astronomers observed a massive outburst emanating from NGC 660 that was around ten times as bright as a supernova explosion. This burst was thought to be caused by a massive jet shooting out of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy.
The polar ring of NGC 660 isn’t visible in this Hubble Space Telescope image, but its central bulge looks strangely tilted. Astronomers are more interested in large amounts of invisible dark matter they think could be hidden within it. Studying the formation of its polar ring during galactic interactions and mergers has provided knowledge and understanding of the shape of dark matter halos around galaxies. 

Space news (galactic interactions: rare galaxy types; polar ring galaxies) – 45 million light-years from Earth, swimming in the cosmic seas of the constellation Pisces – 

One of the most enigmatic objects discovered during the human journey to the beginning of space and time, polar ring galaxies are a cosmic anomaly. Containing a belt of gas and stars orbiting its center that it tore from another galaxy during a collision around one billion years ago, polar ring galaxies are composed of two distinct systems. One of the rarest and oddest galaxy types classified, astronomers study the formation mechanisms of polar ring galaxies in order to try to grasp more knowledge and understanding of the evolution of galaxies.  

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NGC 660 is classified as a “polar ring galaxy”, meaning that it has a belt of gas and stars around its centre that it ripped from a near neighbour during a clash about one billion years ago. The first polar ring galaxy was observed in 1978 and only around a dozen more have been discovered since then, making them something of a cosmic rarity. Credit: Gemini North Telescope

A large, elliptical galaxy about 300 million light years from Earth.
Astronomers studying dark matter halos observe galaxies like NGC 4555 because it hasn’t interacted much with other galaxies, which makes it easier to dark matter they started with. Chandra has shown this galaxy is embedded in a cloud of 10-million-degree Celcius gas (left) with a diameter of 40,000 light-years, more than twice that of NGC 4445. (left). A dark matter halo ten times the combined mass of the stars in the galaxy (right) and 300 times the mass of the gas cloud would be required to gravitationally hold it. is difficult to determine how much dark matter they originally possessed. Chandra’s observations of NGC 4555 confirms that an isolated, elliptical galaxy can possess a dark matter halo of its own.

Studying dark matter halos

The study of the formation history of unique polar-ring spiral galaxy NGC 660 has been even more useful in the detection and shape of the galaxy’s otherwise unseen dark matter halo. The only island universe of this kind detected, so far, a team of astronomers at the Paris Observatory has been studying the formation of its polar ring during interactions and mergers between galaxies. In order to gain insight into the shape of dark matter halos around the thousands of galaxies viewed during our journey. 

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Polar Ring Galaxy NGC 660 Credit: AstronomyTrek

 

The disk of NGC 660 has a flat rotation curve and a rising polar ring astronomers find intriguing and rather puzzling. Scientists are studying its flatness and haven’t reached a conclusion, but they have determined it has a massive polar ring. It does raise a few difficulties in measuring the polar ring and disk velocities since they can’t be measured at the same radius. But astronomers have observed this in previous dark matter studies using polar ring galaxies. 

NGC 660’s also of interest to astronomers because late in 2012 they observed a massive burst emanating from this polar ring galaxy. An energetic outburst estimated to be nearly ten times as bright as a supernova event, they attribute to a massive jet shooting out of the supermassive black hole believed to reside at its core. This island universe’s a one-of-a-kind galaxy astronomers study looking for clues to its unique structure and formation history. A uniqueness that both intrigues and puzzles their inquisitive natures’. 

Learn about the things astronomers have determined about polar ring galaxies here

Learn more about dark matter

Take the space voyage of the ESA here

Discover NASA

Learn more about galaxies types here

Read about the unique stellar object called the Red Rectangle.

Fly on the icy blue wings of the Hen 2-437.

Read about the recent observation of gravitational waves by LIGO.

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Pisces

The 14th biggest constellation in the night sky, Pisces the Fishes is visible in the night sky between latitude 90 to -65 degrees.

The constellation of Pisces actually consists of two fish, one working its way north, the other west. You’ll find Alpha (α) Piscium located at the southern tip of the constellation, at the point where the two segments are joined. That strange name, Alrescha, is derived from the Arabian name, Al Risha, meaning “cord,” which refers to the point at which the two piscatorial cousins are bound together in a knotted cord. Note that the locations shown for Jupiter and Uranus on this chart are current as of the first half of November, 2011. (Stellarium image with labels added, click for a larger view).
The constellation of Pisces actually consists of two fish, one working its way north, the other west. You’ll find Alpha (α) Piscium located at the southern tip of the constellation, at the point where the two segments are joined. That strange name, Alrescha, is derived from the Arabian name, Al Risha, meaning “cord,” which refers to the point at which the two piscatorial cousins are bound together with a knotted cord. Note that the locations are shown for Jupiter and Uranus on this chart as of the first half of November 2011. (Stellarium image with labels added, click for a larger view).

Space & astronomy wiki – the constellations in the sky –

Northeast of Aquarius the Water Bearer and Northwest of Cetus the Sea-monster, observers in Canada best look in early Autumn to view this faint, but huge V-shaped constellation occupying 889 square degrees of the 1st quadrant of the Northern Hemisphere.

The best time to see Pisces is around 9 p.m. (10 p.m. local standard time) between November 6-9. This changes to around 8 p.m. during the early days of December.

Look for the celestial signpost most observers use to find Pisces the Fishes, the Great Square of Pegasus as shown in the image below. Look for the Circlet of Pisces – often called the head of the Western Fish – to the south of the Square of Pegasus. Once you locate the Circlet of Pisces, head east of the Square of Pegasus to the Eastern Fish.

One of the first constellations in the night sky to be identified by ancient astronomers, Pisces the Fishes is believed to be based originally on the Syrian goddess of love and fertility Atagartis. Half-fish and half-woman some archaeologists believe Atagartis is the inspiration Babylonian astronomers used to originate both Greek and Roman goddesses of love and beauty Aphrodite and Venus.

For more information on Pisces, the Fishes go here.

Learn more about how stars seed the universe with the building blocks of the cosmos.

Read about Einstein’s spacetime.

Read about NASA’s Spitzer Telescopes view of the chaotic heart of supernova M82.

The Planets Dance Across September’s Night Sky

September astronomy rocks!

Astronomy News – September is one of the year’s most entertaining and awe-inspiring months to lay on your back on a dark hill and view the delights of the celestial dance in the sky as your ancestors did on a nightly basis. Four of Sol’s dance partners will be in the spotlight in September 2010, taking part in a nightly dance that includes their less observable brothers and sisters, while Mercury will once again dance privately in the eastern sky each morning during September.

Jupiter will be spectacular to view during September
Mighty Jupiter rules the night sky in September 2010

Mighty Jupiter is astronomy royalty

Mighty Jupiter will rule the night’s sky in the Northern Hemisphere during September, especially after he reaches the point in his orbit opposite the sun as seen from SpaceshipEarth1, which space scientists call Jupiter’s opposition. This celestial event will occur on the last day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, on this day the 24 hour period of the day will be evenly separated into night and day, and the evening temperature will still be warm enough to make star-gazing comfortable. The perfect time to set up your celestial time machine to the stars or to just lay back on the cold Earth and watch the celestial dance above you unfold before your eyes as millions of your ancestors have since mankind first perceived the possibilities the night’s sky creates in the human imagination. This will be the most comfortable and best time to view Jupiter in the past 47 years and it will definitely be more comfortable viewing than during Jupiter’s next opposition on October 29, 2011. During Jupiter’s opposition on October 29, 2011, the weather will be a lot of colder than on September 21, 2010, and you’ll have to wait another year to have a look at the largest planet in our solar system.

Mighty Jupiter will be at his brightest when he reaches opposition on September 21, 2010, on this night the King of Sol’s planets will shine brighter in the night’s sky than during any time in the past 47 years. Jupiter will also appear bigger during its September 21, 2010, opposition, subtending an angle of almost 50 “, and shining at magnitude 2.9. This means that after Venus sets at around 8 P.M., mighty Jupiter will be the brightest star-like object in September’s night sky.

Viewing Venus is astronomy fun for all
Venus fluctuates in visible size in September

Astronomy is for lovers

Mighty Jupiter will travel near the border between the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces for several months on both sides of opposition. This region of space-time has few bright stars to outshine Jupiter and the contrast allows viewers to get a good look at Jupiter. The nearest 1st magnitude star, Fomalhaut (Alpha) Piscis Austrini, is over 30 degrees away and mighty Jupiter is easily observed in the night’s sky at this time.

Stargazers in the mid-northern latitudes will find that due to their location mighty Jupiter only climbs halfway up the night’s sky in September 2010. This doesn’t make for the best viewing during Jupiter’s opposition and Jupiter’s altitude will be at its greatest at local midnight time. Stargazers at latitude 40 degrees north will see Jupiter at 48 degrees above the southern horizon. In the northern hemisphere of Earth, star gazers will view Jupiter 1 degree higher in the night’s sky, for each degree of latitude south of 40 degrees north at which they’re viewing Jupiter. In contrast, for each 1 degree north of 40 degrees north at which you observe Jupiter, you’ll see Jupiter 1 degree lower in the night’s sky.

Stargazers that want to view mighty Jupiter as he dances across September’s night sky can so without a pair of binoculars. Stargazers will need a pair of binoculars or telescope to see Uranus, Sol’s seventh planet will lie within 2 degrees of Jupiter throughout September, and can be difficult to view Uranus at this time. Sol’s eighth planet, Neptune, will be found about 30 degrees west of Jupiter and Uranus during September. Stargazers that want to view Venus and Mars should look in the evening twilight near Virgo’s brightest star, Spica.

Neptune is steak and potatoes for the hungry astronomy lover
Neptune can be found 30 degrees west of Jupiter and Saturn in September’s night sky

Planet astronomy is exciting and something that fills a young mind with awe

We’ll begin our journey across September’s night sky during the first week of Earth’s ninth month, Saturn will be dancing in the twilight of the low horizon of September’s night sky. We’ll board our time machine to the stars and planets on September 1 and start the first leg of our celestial “Journey to the Beginning of Time and Space” in human terms by traveling across space and time to Saturn. Sol’s ringed planet will set an hour after the sun on this day and can be found dancing in the sky about 5 degrees above the horizon after the sun goes down.

Venus and Mars can be found dancing in the evening twilight close to Spica in the constellation Virgo

To locate Saturn, use Venus as your visual guide. Earth’s evening star will be visible a few minutes after the sunsets. Look for Spica in the constellation Virgo, to the right of Venus. Saturn and Spica glow at the same relative magnitude, so if you take your time and can find Spica, you should be able to see Saturn in the night’s sky above you. Saturn will be found 20 degrees to the right of Venus in September’s night sky and at around half the distance from the horizon as Venus. Saturn will continue to be viewable from Earth, throughout the first week of September 2010, and observing Saturn from SpaceshipEarth1 will become increasingly difficult after this time.

On September 1, 2010, Venus will be dancing in the night’s sky in line with Spica and Mars. Spica will be in the middle of this dance, and if you continue to watch this celestial dance unfold for two more nights, Spica will dance toward the center of the trio. The trio will begin to fall back from each other as September enters the second week and will form an ever-widening triangle. Venus will shine the brightest during this celestial dance across September’s night sky while Spica will outshine Mars as the trio does their nightly dance across the skies of September.

On September 10 a crescent moon will join this celestial dance. Mars will be viewable about 6 degrees above the Moon while Venus will be to the lower left of Mars. Continue to watch this dance unfold and you’ll see the Moon travel 6 degrees to the left of Venus by the time September 11, 2010, arrives. The Moon will also grow in visible size each night after September 11, 2010, until reaching full moon at 5:17 A.M. EDT on September 23.

Venus is one of the most recognized planets of astronomy

Venus will continue to be viewable in September’s night sky as she dips closer to the horizon each night during September. Venus will shine her brightest on September 23, 2110, when the evening star will shine at magnitude 4,8 and will set an hour after Sol retires for the night. Watch Venus during this time and she’ll draw you into her nightly dance and fascinate you as she goes through obvious changes in visible size and phase. View Venus on September 1 and you’ll see a planet with a disc 29 ” across and at 41 percent illumination. By the time the dance reaches September 30, Venus has slimmed to 19 percent illumination and swelled to about 45 “, a change that can be easily discerned by patient stargazers.

Mars will appear small and dim compared to the Evening Star, the Red Planet will shine at magnitude 1.5 throughout September 2010, which is around 300 times dimmer than Venus will shine. Mar’s disk also measures only 4″ and very little detail will be seen by viewers looking at Mars through a telescope. Mars will become more visible late in 2011, so if you want to have the best view of Mars, you’ll have to wait until this time.

September will be a great time to view Sol’s ninth planet though as Pluto will dance an elegant loop in northwestern Sagittarius, close to an 8th magnitude star that’s only 2.6 degrees north-northwest of 4th magnitude Mu Sagittarii. This will make this 14th magnitude dwarf planet, which some claim isn’t really a planet, easier to view due to its proximity to this relatively bright star. You’ll still require an 8-inch telescope and a dark sky to be able to see Pluto in September’s night sky, but the view is spectacular, and you can get a good idea of the distance involved.

Astronomy is in the human soul

Read about the present news on the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

View the latest in high definition images of the solar system provided by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

We tell you about the astronomy highlights upcoming for 2014 https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/2014-the-journey-ahead/.