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 NGC 1512   NGC 4650A  
  NGC 1512       NGC 4650A

NGC 1512 is a barred spiral galaxy in the southern constella- tion of Horologium; the Hubble telescope reveals a stunning 2,400 light-year-wide circle of infant star clusters. Circumstellar star-forming rings are common in the universe. Such rings within barred spiral galaxies may in fact comprise the most numerous class of nearby starburst regions. Astronomers generally believe that the giant bar funnels the gas to the inner ring, where stars are formed within numerous star clusters. In NGC 1512 newly born star clusters exist in both dusty and clean environments. The clean clusters are readily seen in ultraviolet and visible light, appearing as bright, blue clumps in the image. However, the dusty clusters are revealed only by the glow of the gas clouds in which they are hidden, as detected in red and infrared wavelengths by the Hubble cameras.


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 which we see almost edge-on in this Hubble telescope view. In NGC 4650A, both the old, rotating disk and the dark matter surrounding this galaxy pull on its polar ring.

Krešimir J. Adamić