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Smeared colliding galaxies

Smeared colliding galaxies
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as part of its continuing program to collect images of unusual galaxies that had previously not been observed at high resolution.

The Arp-Madore catalogue is a collection of particularly peculiar galaxies spread throughout the southern sky, and includes a collection of subtly interacting galaxies as well as more spectacular colliding galaxies. Arp-Madore 417-391, which lies around 670 million light-years away in the constellation Eridanus in the southern celestial hemisphere, is one such galactic collision. The two galaxies have been distorted by gravity and twisted into a colossal ring, leaving the cores of the two galaxies nestled side by side.

It is likely that this collision has been going on for many millions of years, and will not be over for many millions of years to come. In the end the two galaxies will likely merge into one whose final shape cannot be predicted.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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  • Cotour

    If not yet named, may I suggest the “Oyster Shell” galaxy?

    Or the “Auris” galaxy?

  • Gregory English

    Is there any evidence of celestial bodies colliding when galaxies come together like this? I suppose that would be too small to detect.

  • Gregory English: Yes, any star collisions would usually be too small to detect, but such collisions are expected to be exceedingly rare. Space is big, far bigger than we can imagine. There is plenty of room for the stars of the two galaxies to miss each other entirely. All that happens is that their gravity fields interact, forcing objects to change directions.

  • Col Beausabre

    I cant help but wonder what it would be like to be living on a planet in one of those two galaxies. In addition to disrupting the galaxies, I would think tidal forces would do the same to solar systems

  • Cotour

    Col B:

    In the narrow slice that is the time frame of your life span as compared to the time frame of the galaxies colliding, I do not even think you would notice anything.

  • Actually, probably almost no solar systems would effected at all. Just as space is too big for any stars to collide, gravity as a force is too weak for the changes here to influence individual planets.

  • I believe the same sort of issues happen just orbiting inside a galaxy: By the time a star makes it around “to the same place”, the neighborhood is entirely different from the previous orbit. Getting pulled a little out of line due to extra-galactic stars passing through is not really anything new or interesting from the stars perspective: Just another perturbation.

    Even if “flung” out of the galaxy, it would take so long that the planets would just get dragged along for the ride and not really notice. The changes to the night sky might be interesting – for anyone with records spanning the millennia it would take to notice.

  • Star Bird

    The Andromeda Galaxy and Alpha Cestari the Jupiter 2

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