Astronomers Look Back 11 Billion Years and See Unusual “Cosmic Ring of Fire”

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Ring Galaxy Artist Impression

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This is an artist’s impression of the ring galaxy. Credit: James Josephides, Swinburne Astronomy Productions

Unusual galaxy set to trigger reconsider on how structures in deep space kind.

Astronomers have actually recorded a picture of a super-rare kind of galaxy — referred to as a “cosmic ring of fire” — as it existed 11 billion years earlier.

The galaxy, which has approximately the mass of the Milky Way, is circular with a hole in the middle, rather like a titanic doughnut. Its discovery, revealed in the journal Nature Astronomy, is set to shock theories about the earliest development of stellar structures and how they develop.

“It is a very curious object that we’ve never seen before,” stated lead scientist Dr. Tiantian Yuan, from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D). “It looks strange and familiar at the same time.”

Ring Galaxy Composite Image

This is a composite picture of the ring galaxy R5519 put together from single-color images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: Tiantian Yuan/Hubble Space Telescope

The galaxy, called R5519, is 11 billion light-years from the Solar System. The hole at its center is genuinely enormous, with a size 2 billion times longer than the range in between the Earth and the Sun. To put it another method, it is 3 million times larger than the size of the supermassive great void in the galaxy Messier 87, which in 2019 ended up being the very first to be straight imaged.

“It is making stars at a rate 50 times greater than the Milky Way,” stated Dr Yuan, who is an ASTRO 3D Fellow based at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology, in the state of Victoria.

“Most of that activity is taking place on its ring — so it truly is a ring of fire.”

Working with associates from around Australia, United States, Canada, Belgium and Denmark, Dr Yuan utilized spectroscopic information collected by the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii and images taped by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to determine the uncommon structure.

The proof recommends it is a type referred to as a “collisional ring galaxy”, making it the very first one ever found in the early Universe.

There are 2 sort of ring galaxies. The more typical type kinds since of internal procedures. Collisional ones form — as the name recommends — as an outcome of tremendous and violent encounters with other galaxies.

In the close-by “local” Universe they are 1000 times rarer than the internally developed type. Images of the far more remote R5519 originate from about 10.8 billion years earlier, simply 3 billion years after the Big Bang. They show that collisional ring galaxies have actually constantly been exceptionally unusual.

ASTRO 3D co-author, Dr. Ahmed Elagali, based at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Western Australia, stated studying R5519 would assist identify when spiral nebula started to establish.

“Further, constraining the number density of ring galaxies through cosmic time can also be used to put constraints on the assembly and evolution of local-like galaxy groups,” he included.

Another co-author, Professor Kenneth Freeman from the Australian National University, stated the discovery had ramifications for comprehending how galaxies like the Milky Way formed.

“The collisional formation of ring galaxies requires a thin disk to be present in the ‘victim’ galaxy before the collision occurs,” he discussed.

“The thin disk is the defining component of spiral galaxies: before it assembled, the galaxies were in a disorderly state, not yet recognizable as spiral galaxies.”

“In the case of this ring galaxy, we are looking back into the early universe by 11 billion years, into a time when thin disks were only just assembling. For comparison, the thin disk of our Milky Way began to come together only about nine billion years ago. This discovery is an indication that disk assembly in spiral galaxies occurred over a more extended period than previously thought.”

Reference: 25 May 2020, Nature Astronomy.
DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-1102-7

Drs Yuan and Elagali, and Professor Freeman, dealt with associates from the University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, and University of Queensland, all in Australia, together with others at the Cosmic Dawn Centre (DAWN) in Denmark, Texas A&M University in the United States, York University in Canada, and Ghent University in Belgium.