Our understanding of the universe is constantly evolving – but astronomers are still puzzling over what is known as ‘Hoag’s Object’.
It was discovered by astronomer Alfred Hoag in 1950 and appears to be a ring-shaped galaxy measuring around 100,000 light years across.
But the most recent image, from the Hubble Space Telescope, shows an even stranger sight.
Processed by geophysicist Benoit Blanco , it’s possible to see a smaller and denser sphere of reddish stars. Between that and the outer galaxy, it appears that a third ring galaxy exists much further away.
A galaxy within a galaxy within a galaxy.
As ever, these discoveries throw up more questions than answers.
“Hoag’s Object” a beautiful & strange ring galaxy with a ball of old stars in the center (& another ring galaxy visible in gap between!) @TheVoroscope thinks it might be an artifact of a super advanced civilization, but you’ll have to ask him about that… https://t.co/LHpH2vI1um pic.twitter.com/S4OEQ0onF0
— David Grinspoon (@DrFunkySpoon) November 27, 2019
Ring galaxies account for only 0.1% of all known galaxies and finding this kind of Russian doll formation hasn’t been done before.
One theory is that Hoag’s object used to be a regular disc-type spiral galaxy before a monumental collision with another galaxy ripped a hole through it and forever changed its gravitational pull.
‘How Hoag’s Object formed, including its nearly perfectly round ring of stars and gas, remains unknown,’ explained Blanco.
‘Genesis hypotheses include a galaxy collision billions of years ago and the gravitational effect of a central bar that has since vanished.’