Loops of Stars

NASA/ESA Hubble

A sparkling pink and purple loop floats in a sea of galaxies in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore this image of ring galaxy Zw II 28. What patterns or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

Galaxies come in many shapes and sizes. Some galaxies have graceful spiral arms. Some galaxies appear as disks with bulges in the center. Other galaxies, called elliptical galaxies, are just giant, milky blobs of stars. Ring galaxies, like Zw II 28, are much rarer. Although the universe seems mostly empty, galaxies do collide. Usually they pass each other and combine leaving tell-tale tails of stars and bursts of star formation. But sometimes, one galaxy will pass right through the center of another leaving behind a ring galaxy.

Interactions between galaxies stir up gas and dust. As gas and dust are pushed together, or compressed, new stars form. In Zw II 28, the outer ring is glowing with pink clouds of gas and dust and will be the home of new stars. Sparkling in these clouds, look for blue patches of light. These are brand new stars. On the right side of the ring, just inside the inner loop, look for a brighter white area. This may be a companion galaxy or perhaps even the galaxy that collided with Zw II 28 to create this rare galaxy.

As you explore the galaxy, look for the dozens of galaxies that dot the background of the image.

Zw II 28, is found about 380 million light years from Earth toward the constellation of Orion.

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