Astronomers have captured an image of a super-rare type of galaxy that is 11 billion light-years away from Earth.
The star formation, named R5519, has been described by scientists as a ‘cosmic ring of fire’ that looks like a ‘titanic doughnut’.
It has a hole in the centre that is two billion times longer than the distance between Earth and the Sun, and is said to be making stars 50 times faster than the Milky Way.
The discovery was announced today in the journal Nature Astronomy and identified as a ‘collisional ring galaxy’, making it one of the earliest known in the universe.
Galaxy named R5519 has been described as a ‘cosmic ring of fire’ by scientists. It is 11 billion light-years away from Earth
‘It is a very curious object that we’ve never seen before,’ said lead researcher Dr Tiantian Yuan, from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in Three-Dimensions. ‘It looks strange and familiar at the same time’.
It was imaged through data gathered by the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii and recorded in the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.
Professor Kenneth Freeman, who also worked on the project, said: ‘The collisional formation of ring galaxies requires a thin disk to be present in the “victim” galaxy before the collision occurs.
‘The thin disk is the defining component of spiral galaxies – before it assembled, the galaxies were in a disorderly state, not yet recognisable as spiral galaxies.
The galaxy was imaged using pictures taken by NASA’s Hubble Telescope
‘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.
‘The discovery is an indication that disk assembly in spiral galaxies occurred over a more extended period than previously thought.’