Monday, April 15, 2024

The Helix Galaxy: NGC 2685 | Gemini North Telescope

The Helix Galaxy: NGC 2685 | Gemini North Telescope

The very unusual galaxy NGC 2685, also known as the Helix Galaxy, is located about 40 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. This image was captured by the Gemini North telescope, one half of the International Gemini Observatory, operated by National Science Foundation's NOIRLab. It is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. NGC 2685 is a peculiar lenticular galaxy known as a polar ring galaxy. A ring of gas, stars, and dust orbits NGC 2685 perpendicular to the flat plane of the host galaxy. This odd crossing of planes is believed to be evidence of galaxy interactions, mergers, or tidal accretion events. 

Current research suggests that the present structure of NGC 2685 was formed when it captured material from another galaxy, which was strung out into an encircling ring. This galaxy is one of our closest known polar ring galaxies and is therefore one of the easiest of its kind to study. Owing to its odd characteristics, it has been called the most unusual galaxy in the Shapley-Ames Catalog of Bright Galaxies and appears as number 336 in astronomer Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies.

The 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared North Gemini Telescope is located on Hawaii‘s Maunakea as part of the international community of observatories built to take advantage of the superb atmospheric conditions on this long-dormant volcano that rises about 4,214 meters (13,825 feet) into the dry, stable air of the Pacific. The Gemini Observatory's international headquarters is located in Hilo, Hawai‘i at the University of Hawaii Hilo's University Park. 

Since 2002 Gemini North has also been known as the Frederick C. Gillett Gemini North telescope. Dr. Gillett, who died in April 2001, was one of the primary visionaries of the Gemini telescopes. He was instrumental in assuring that the design of Gemini's twin 8-meter telescopes would make major scientific contributions to astronomy.

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Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/L. Bassino

Image Processing: J. Miller (Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Rodriguez (Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIRLab), & M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab)

Release Date: April 10, 2024

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