/ September 3, 2013
While it may look like there are several rings in this image of the galaxy Messier 94 taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers actually think there is in fact only one. Until recently, astronomers believed there were two distinct rings -- a compact band surrounding the core of the galaxy and a more faint ring of stars encircling that first band.
Now, the outer ring is being classified as an optical illusion, thanks to infrared observations gleaned from the Spitzer Telescope, combined with information from other telescopes, including the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS).
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech