Astronomers recently observed a "cosmic ring of fire" galaxy from the early years of the universe, which could help reshape the understanding of how structures in the Universe form. Described as a "cosmic ring of fire", because most of the activity in the galaxy is on its surrounding ring, R5519 is about the size of the Milky Way but is circular in shape with a massive hole in the middle. If you're familiar with the first black hole ever captured on film, the Messier 87 - the hole is three million times bigger.
"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", says Kenneth Freeman, co-author of the study.
Researchers discovered the galaxy using data from the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii and images recorded by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Galaxies like R5519 are said to be a thousand times rarer than the other type. It is actually a big galaxy that has the shape of a ring in which stars are forming at a very rapid pace, thus truly making it a ring of fire. R5519's central void has a diameter that is two-billion times greater than the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Compared with our Milky Way Galaxy, it has a similar stellar mass, but has a radius that is 1.5-2.2 times larger and is forming stars 50 times faster.
What makes it unlikely, though, according to the report is that, based off what we know about galaxy formation, this one "has no business being in the distant universe". It is a "collisional ring galaxy" and this is the first time that such a galaxy has been located. The finding, announced in the journal "Nature " Astronomy", you can shake the theories about the earliest formation of structures, galactic. Hierarchical mergers could also eventually form disk galaxies, but this process is also very gradual and similarly time-consuming. For a collisional ring galaxy to form from the clash between two galaxies, a 'thin disk' of material has to be present in one of the objects before the collision takes place.
The galaxy, named R5519, is 11 billion light-years from the Solar System. "For comparison, the thin disk of our Milky Way began to come together only about 9 billion years ago".
Contrary to previous predictions, the discovery of R5519 suggests that massive collisional rings were as rare 11 billion years ago as they are today. "This discovery is an indication that the assembly of the disc in spiral galaxies was done over a longer period than previously thought".
"The thin disk is the component that defines the spiral galaxies: before assembly, the galaxies were in a disordered state, not yet recognizable as spiral galaxies", he adds.