An artist’s impression of how the ring galaxy formed.  Credit: James Josephides, Swinburne Astronomy Productions
Original Published Date: 
Friday, May 29, 2020

Full article issued by the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D)

ARC-supported astronomers have captured an image of a super-rare type of galaxy⁠—described as a 'cosmic ring of fire'—as it existed 11 billion years ago.

The galaxy, which has roughly the mass of the Milky Way, is circular with a hole in the middle, rather like a titanic doughnut. Its discovery, announced in the journal Nature Astronomy, is set to shake up theories about the earliest formation of galactic structures and how they evolve.

“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 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D). “It looks strange and familiar at the same time.”

The galaxy, named R5519, is 11 billion light-years from the Solar System. The massive hole at its centre has a diameter two billion times longer than the distance between the Earth and the Sun, and three million times bigger than the supermassive black hole in the galaxy Messier 87, which in 2019 became the first ever to be directly imaged.

ASTRO 3D researchers worked with colleagues at The University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, and University of Queensland together with others at the Cosmic Dawn Centre (DAWN) in Denmark, Texas A&M University in the US, York University in Canada, and Ghent University in Belgium.

Photo credit: 

An artist’s impression of how the ring galaxy formed. Credit: James Josephides, Swinburne Astronomy Productions.