(CNN/Gray News) – A team of scientists has discovered a giant “cosmic ring of fire" that could help us understand how galactic structures form and evolve.
The fiery doughnut-shaped galaxy is very rare but is similar in mass to our own Milky Way. It has the snappy name of R5519.
The images captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and combined with data gathered by the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii are believed to show the results of galaxies colliding with each other.
“It is a very curious object that we’ve never seen before,” said Tiantian Yuan, the lead researchers from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions. “It looks strange and familiar at the same time.”
While the images are new, what they’re showing is ancient.
The galaxy is some 11 billion lightyears from our solar system, meaning what the photos are showing happened nearly 11 billion years ago.
The Big Bang is estimated to have happened about 3 billion years earlier. The theory of how the universe began is the leading scientific explanation of its origin.
Just for some perspective, the hole at the center of the “ring of fire” may not look like much, but it has a diameter two billion times longer than the distance between Earth and the sun.