Astronomers have identified a galaxy within a galaxy within a galaxy

Our understanding of the universe is constantly evolving – but astronomers are still puzzling over what is known as ‘Hoag’s Object’.

It was discovered by astronomer Alfred Hoag in 1950 and appears to be a ring-shaped galaxy measuring around 100,000 light years across.

But the most recent image, from the Hubble Space Telescope, shows an even stranger sight.

Processed by geophysicist Benoit Blanco, it’s possible to see a smaller and denser sphere of reddish stars. Between that and the outer galaxy, it appears that a third ring galaxy exists much further away.

A galaxy within a galaxy within a galaxy.

As ever, these discoveries throw up more questions than answers.

Ring galaxies account for only 0.1% of all known galaxies and finding this kind of Russian doll formation hasn’t been done before.

One theory is that Hoag’s object used to be a regular disc-type spiral galaxy before a monumental collision with another galaxy ripped a hole through it and forever changed its gravitational pull.

‘How Hoag’s Object formed, including its nearly perfectly round ring of stars and gas, remains unknown,’ explained Blanco.

‘Genesis hypotheses include a galaxy collision billions of years ago and the gravitational effect of a central bar that has since vanished.’

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