NASA/ESA’s (European Space Agency) Hubble Space Telescope captured an amazing view of the Cartwheel Galaxy. A violent galactic collision reshaped it.
About 100 million years ago, a smaller galaxy has passed right through a large disk galaxy. Thus, producing shock waves that swept up gas and dust – much like the ripples produced when a stone is dropped into a lake – and sparked regions of intense star formation (appearing blue).
The image is based on earlier Hubble data of the Cartwheel that was reprocessed in 2010. Thus, bringing out more detail in the image than seen before.
Astronomers first spotted the Cartwheel Galaxy on wide-field images from the U.K. Schmidt telescope. Then, they studied it in detail using the Anglo-Australian Telescope.
Also known as LEDA 2248, ESO 350-40 and IRAS 00352-3359, the galaxy is approximately 150,000 light-years in diameter. It has a mass of about 3 billion solar masses.
The outermost ring of the galaxy marks the shock wave’s leading edge. It is 1,5-times the size of our Milky Way.
The ring contains at least several billion new stars that normally can’t form in such a short time span.
This object is one of the most dramatic examples of the small class of ring galaxies.
However, before the collision, the Cartwheel Galaxy was supposedly a normal spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Thumbnail image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA