Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/A. Prestwich et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

This festive galaxy is NGC 922 (or the Ring Galaxy, if you’re feeling informal). It is even sprinkled with a few huge, red orbs that resemble ornaments. Granted, instead of being composed of shiny plastic, these bright red dots are evidence of nature’s most fearsome beasts; black holes. To be more specific, these regions are inhabited by black holes of the stellar-mass variety, which spit out copious amounts of x-ray radiation (the sources are classified as “ultraluminous X-ray sources” [ULXs]) that can be seen in infrared.

The pink, yellow and blue bits are all optical data taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, with the other colors coming from specialized telescopes that capture light at other wavelengths. When we put all of the separate images together, we get a clear picture of the galaxy’s inner-workings.

It’s quite likely that NGC 922 — or at least NGC 922, as we see it today — was spawned from a galactic collision that took place a few millions of years ago, with one of the two galaxies involved hiding just outside of our field of view. As the two galaxies and their respective materials merged to form a larger galaxy, major star-formation activity was once again sparked within the confines of NGC 922.

Now, if one wanted to visit this galaxy, simply hop in spaceship, leave Earth’s orbit, speed away in the southern direction of the constellation of Fornax and you’ll reach the galaxy in about 150 million years.. assuming you were traveling at 100% the speed of light, but on the plus side, it wouldn’t feel like 150 million years! Happy travels!

See a larger image here


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