A polar-ring galaxy is a type of galaxy in which an outer ring of gas and stars rotates over the poles of the galaxy. These polar rings are thought to form when two galaxies gravitationally interact with each other. One possibility is that a material is tidally stripped from a passing galaxy to produce the polar ring seen in the polar-ring galaxy. The other possibility is that a smaller galaxy collides orthogonally with the plane of rotation of the larger galaxy, with the smaller galaxy effectively forming the polar-ring structure.
The first four S0 galaxies that were identified as polar-ring galaxies were NGC 2685, NGC 4650A, A 0136 -0801, and ESO 415 -G26. While these galaxies have been extensively studied, many other polar-ring galaxies have since been identified. Polar-ring S0 galaxies may be found around 0.5% of all nearby lenticular galaxies, and it is possible that 5% of lenticular galaxies may have had polar rings at some point during their lifetimes.
The first polar-ring elliptical galaxies were identified in 1978. They were NGC 5128, NGC 5363, NGC 1947 and Cygnus A, while the polar-ring S0 galaxies NGC 2685 and NGC 4650A were at that time indicated as resulting from similar formation processes. Only some years later, when the first observations of the stellar and gas motion of polar-ring elliptical and S0 galaxies were possible with a better spectroscopic technology, the external origin of the gaseous rings was clarified. In addition to the best-known example, NGC 5128 (Cen A), a very regular polar ring elliptical, is NGC 5266
NGC 4650A, an example of a polar-ring galaxy.
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