Astronomers first received an image of a rare space object – a giant ancient ring galaxy. Around the supermassive black hole there is such an active star formation that scientists are comparing the newly discovered galaxy with the “cosmic ring of fire”. The results of the study are described in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Astrophysicists from Australia, the United States, Canada, Belgium, and Denmark, combining the spectroscopic data collected at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and images of the Hubble Space Telescope, obtained an image of an unusual space structure. This is a galaxy with a mass of the Milky Way, but round and with a very large hole in the middle, like a giant donut.
The galaxy, named R5519, is located 11 billion light-years from us. The diameter of the hole in its center is two billion times the distance between the Earth and the Sun and three million times larger than the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy M 87, which was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope last year.
“This is a very interesting object that we have never seen before,” the press release quotes the lead author of the study, Tiantian Yuan from the Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputer Computing at Swinburne University of Technology. “It produces stars at a speed fifty times the speed.” “star formation in the Milky Way. Most of this activity falls on the galactic ring. So, this is a real ring of fire”.
There are two types of ring galaxies. The first, more common, is associated with internal processes in the galaxy itself. The second, collision, is formed during the collision of galaxies.
R5519, which formed just three billion years after the Big Bang, is the earliest collision galaxy discovered by astronomers. According to the authors, this indicates that collisions of galaxies have always been rare, even at the initial stages of the development of the Universe, and also indicates that spiral galaxies like the Milky Way formed earlier than scientists thought.
In order for a circular galaxy to form during the collision of two space objects, the “victim galaxy” must already have a thin disk, and this is an element of spiral galaxies.
“A thin disk is the defining component of spiral galaxies. Before it was assembled, the galaxies were in a disordered state that was not yet recognized as a spiral,” said another study author, Professor Kenneth Freeman from Australian National University. “In this ring galaxy, we see the early Universe as it was 11 billion years ago when thin disks were just gathering. For comparison, the thin disk of the Milky Way began to collect only about nine billion years ago”.
The new discovery sheds light on unknown episodes of the formation of space objects in the young Universe, scientists say.