Thu. Jan 23rd, 2020

Astronomers have identified a galaxy within a galaxy within a galaxy

2 min read

Galaxy within a galaxy within a galaxy captured in astro photo Picture: NASA, ESA, Hubble; Processing: Benoit Blanco

Caption: Galaxy within a galaxy within a galaxy captured in astro photo
Picture: NASA, ESA, Hubble; Processing: Benoit Blanco

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.

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.

(Picture: ESA) Hubble Spots a Curious Spiral. Many galaxies we see through telescopes such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the source of this beautiful image, look relatively similar: spiraling arms, a glowing center, and a mixture of bright specks of star formation and dark ripples of cosmic dust weaving throughout. This galaxy, a spiral galaxy named NGC 772, is no exception.

A more familiar spiral galaxy (ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Seth et al)

‘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.’

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