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The left panel shows a false-color image of PGC 1000714. The right panel shows a B-I color index map that reveals both the outer ring (blue) and diffuse inner ring (light green). Credit: Ryan Beauchemin
“Less than 0.1% of all observed galaxies are Hoag-type galaxies,” says Burcin Mutlu-Pakdil, lead author of a paper on this work and a graduate student at the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, University of Minnesota Twin Cities and University of Minnesota Duluth.
Hoag-type galaxies are round cores surrounded by a circular ring, with nothing visibly connecting them. The majority of observed galaxies are disc-shaped like our own Milky Way. Galaxies with unusual appearances give astronomers unique insights into how galaxies are formed and change.
“We’ve observed galaxies with a blue ring around a central red body before, the most well-known of these is Hoag’s object. However, the unique feature of this galaxy is what appears to be an older diffuse red inner ring,” says Patrick Treuthardt, co-author of the study and an astrophysicist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
“The different colors of the inner and outer ring suggest that this galaxy has experienced two different formation periods,” Mutlu-Pakdil says.
“From these initial single snapshots in time, it’s impossible to know how the rings of this particular galaxy were formed.” The researchers say that by accumulating snapshot views of other galaxies like this one astronomers can begin to understand how unusual galaxies are formed and evolve.
“Whenever we find a unique or strange object to study, it challenges our current theories and assumptions about how the Universe works. It usually tells us that we still have a lot to learn,” says Treuthardt.