"The Cartwheel Galaxy". The Cartwheel is part of a group of galaxies about 500 million light years away in the constellation of Sculptor (two smaller galaxies in the group are visible on the right). Its rim is an immense ring like structure 100,000 light years in diameter composed of newly formed, extremely bright, massive stars. When galaxies collide they pass through each other, their individual stars rarely coming into contact. However, the galaxies' gravitational fields are seriously distorted by the collision. In fact, the ring-like shape is the result of the gravitational disruption caused by a small intruder galaxy passing through a large one, causing a a star formation wave to move out from the impact point like a ripple across the surface of a pond. In this case the large galaxy may have originally been a spiral, not unlike our own Milky Way, transformed into the wheel shape by the collision. But ... what happened to the small intruder galaxy?
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NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.
Based on Astronomy Picture Of the Day