30 Interesting Cartwheel Galaxy Facts – Location, Discovery, Formation

by Sankalan Baidya
cartwheel galaxy facts

One of the most stunning galaxies hanging around in deep space is the Cartwheel Galaxy. It is incredibly beautiful with a stunningly bright core and equally beautiful ring that makes it look like a cartwheel. Of course, that’s not everything about the galaxy. Let us learn a few interesting Cartwheel Galaxy facts and find out about its structure, its features and of course, its location, alternative names etc. Ready? Let’s begin…

Galaxy NameCartwheel Galaxy, MCG-06-02-022a, AM0035-335, ESO 350-40, PGC 2248
Galaxy TypeRing Galaxy and Lenticular Galaxy*
Striking FeatureResembles a wagon wheel and hence its name
DiscoveryDiscovered in 1941 by Fritz Zwicky
Distance from Earth496 million light years or 150 mega parsec
Apparent Magnitude15.2
Diameter150,000 light years
Mass of GalaxyBetween 2.9 and 4.8 billion M where M means solar mass that is, mass of our Sun

* A Lenticular Galaxy is something between a Spiral Galaxy and an Elliptical Galaxy. It appears like a fading Spiral Galaxy but its composition and other features appear similar to that of an Elliptical Galaxy.

Cartwheel Galaxy Facts: 1-5 | Location, Discovery, General Features

1. Cartwheel Galaxy is a deep space or deep sky galaxy that is southern constellation known as the Sculptor.

2. Sitting at an approximate distance of 496 million light years, the galaxy has a diameter of nearly 150,000 light years, making it slightly larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy.

3. It was Fritz Zwicky – a Swiss astronomer – who discovered the galaxy in year 1941

4. The galaxy is moving away from us at a very high speed of 9,050 kilometers per second.

5. With a mass of anywhere between 2.9 billion M and 4.8 billion M, the galaxy is spinning at a high speed of 217 kilometers per second.

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Cartwheel Galaxy Facts: 6-10 | General Features

6. The galaxy has a distinct bluish ring encircling the bright inner core.

7. Between the bright inner core and the outer bluish ring are many stars that can be seen only in ultraviolet spectrum.

8. Various images of the Cartwheel Galaxy captured by astronomers have revealed that more distant and faint galaxies are present around the Cartwheel Galaxy, near Sculptor Wall.

9. They all (together with Cartwheel Galaxy) form a behemoth galaxy cluster structure that extends of billions of light years outwards.

10. Cartwheel Galaxy is one of local universe’s brightest source for emitting ultraviolet light.

Cartwheel Galaxy Facts: 11-15 | Formation of the Galaxy – Popular Theory

11. Initially, the galaxy was nothing more than a simple Spiral Galaxy just like our Milky Way Galaxy. However, some 200 million years ago, an accident occurred.

12. There was a smaller companion galaxy to the present-day Cartwheel Galaxy. This smaller companion galaxy came in and rammed nearly head-on with the present-day Cartwheel Galaxy and passed right through the disk.

13. What happened next was that massive shock wave was generated that traveled through the Cartwheel Galaxy. To understand it, throw a rock in a pond and see how the ripples move out. Now just imagine the rock as the smaller galaxy that passed through. The ripples are the shock waves and the pond is the ancient Spiral Galaxy, which is now the Cartwheel Galaxy.

14. Traveling at a speed of 200,000 miles an hour, the shock wave or the cosmic tsunami swept gas and dust, triggering star-forming activity in the central region of the galaxy. The core of the original Spiral Galaxy was left unscathed.

15. This cosmic collision was so intense that the central core of the original galaxy became very unstable. Spinning around the core was a large electromagnetic field that spun at a very high speed.

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Cartwheel Galaxy Facts: 16-20 | Formation of the Galaxy – Popular Theory

16. Because of the electromagnetic field, the core of the original galaxy then started producing massive stars and at the same time, expelled the stars in a ring pattern.

17. The shot out stars had a high velocity, which combined with the immense gravity of the core of the stars kept the stars stable in the bluish ring that we see in the Cartwheel Galaxy.

18. However, with passage of time, the central core of the Cartwheel Galaxy became stable but still continuing produce and eject stars in the same ring patter. Only now, the ejection speed wasn’t high enough to send the all the way up to the bright ring.

19. Instead of reaching the bright ring, the stars now hanged around in between, producing the spokes extending all the way from the core of the Cartwheel Galaxy to the outer bluish ring.

20. These spokes are also called arms of the galaxy and the original spiral shape of the galaxy is gradually re-emerging.

Cartwheel Galaxy Facts: 21-25 | Formation of the Galaxy – Popular Theory

21. The stability that the central core of the Cartwheel Galaxy achieve was not really permanent. The core attained instability once again.

22. The result of the newfound instability was that the central core once again started producing stars and started ejecting them.

23. Only this time, the ejected stars did not reach far enough, making a smaller inner ring. This inner ring is made up of what astronomers and scientists prefer calling – ‘balls-of-light’.

24. The balls-of-light are very large and are in a constant decay mode. In the process of decaying, these larger ones are leaving behind streams of smaller balls-of-light.

25. These streams of smaller balls-of-light together produce comet-shaped large structures.

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Cartwheel Galaxy Facts: 26-30 | Formation of the Galaxy – Alternate Theory

26. Though not a very highly popular model, this alternative model named ‘Ball-of-Light Particle Model’ says that the central core of the galaxy was made of a large ball-of-light.

27. This large ball-of-light eventually became very unstable and split apart to form two or three balls-of-light.

28. At least one of these split out balls-of-light eventually became one of the smaller galaxies that we see near the Cartwheel Galaxy.

29. According to this hypothesis, the split out ball-of-light moved away from the parent galaxy but in the process, left of trail.

30. The trail connecting the smaller galaxy and the Cartwheel Galaxy is made of a hydrogen gas (neutral) trail and other material. Basically, this trail is more like a bridge between the Cartwheel Galaxy and the nearby small galaxy.

No! We are not done with the Cartwheel Galaxy yet. There is more to this galaxy. We will continue with the remaining facts in our next article shortly. Until then, let us know whether you liked this article or not. If you liked it, consider doing us a favor and share it.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

Image Credit: By ESA/Hubble & NASA – http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1036a/, Public Domain, Link

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