A cosmic jellyfish appears to pulse with light in this multi-wavelength image of the Cartwheel galaxy, compiled from images taken by four space telescopes.
The galaxy probably came by its distinctive shape when a small galaxy – possibly one of the objects at bottom-left of the image – collided with it head-on 100 million years ago. The crash set off ripples in the large galaxy's gas that led to concentric rings of star birth.
"It's like dropping a stone into a pond, only in this case, the pond is the galaxy and the wave is the compression of gas," explains Phil Appleton of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, US. "Each wave represents a burst of star formation – the youngest stars are found in the outer ring."
The Cartwheel galaxy shows concentric rings of star formation, probably caused by a collision with a smaller galaxy (Image: GALEX/Chandra/Hubble/Spitzer)