News Release Archive:

News Release 235 of 325

May 6, 1999 12:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1999-16

Internet Voters Get Two Galaxies in One from Hubble

A Hubble Heritage Release

May 6, 1999: Located about 130 million light-years away, NGC 4650A is one of only 100 known polar-ring galaxies. Their unusual disk-ring structure is not yet understood fully. One possibility is that polar rings are the remnants of colossal collisions between two galaxies sometime in the distant past, probably at least 1 billion years ago. What is left of one galaxy has become the rotating inner disk of old red stars in the center.

Meanwhile, another smaller galaxy, which ventured too close, was probably severely damaged or destroyed. During the collision the gas from the smaller galaxy would have been stripped off and captured by the larger galaxy, forming a new ring of dust, gas, and stars, which orbit around the inner galaxy almost at right angles to the old disk. This is the polar ring that we see almost edge-on in this Hubble telescope view.

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Image Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)