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A Bizarre Cosmic Rarity
NGC 660
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Name: NGC 660
Description: Ring Galaxy
Position (J2000): RA 01hr 43m 02.35s Dec +13° 38' 44.45"
Constellation: Pisces
Distance: 45 million light years
Apparent magnitude: 11.2
Apparent size: 8.4' x 2.7'
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Release date: December 2, 2013
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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 center that it ripped from a nearby neighbor 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 harbor 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 center of the galaxy.