Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Four Galaxies Collide

So it was just another day in space for good old Spitzer, NASA's pride and joy of a space-scope.  It's infra-red eyes were scanning a part of a distant galaxy called blah blah blah, (actually it's CL0958+4702) when something was spotted so incredible, though expected, still so amazing to finally see what previously we could only imagine with computer animation.  About 5 billion light years away, it spotted an unusually large plume of light emerging from the "clash" of four blob-shaped galaxies.  Three of these galaxies were the size of ours, the other almost 4 times as large.

Nothing astrophysicists hadn't known would happen, this merging of four distant galaxies.  From previous posts you might recall that our own Milky Way is set to merge with our nearest galactic neighbor, Andromeda, in 5 billion years.  Anyway, this four-part merger was the largest ever "seen" and we've been able to witness many.  This one was beyond gigantic.  Billions of elderly stars were ejected out during the clash, and about half will eventually fall back into whatever galaxy will remain.  Imagine its size.  It could be the largest galaxy the universe has ever known, once it finally forms itself into that body.  Easily 10 times the size of our own Milky Way - and these were also elliptical galaxies that collided, or merged, not spiral.     

This one is different because, unlike other known mergers, the galaxies involved in this quadruple collision have no gas, and that's the fuel source material that gives birth to stars.  As a result, astronomers predict that relatively few new stars will be born in this new, ultra-immense new galaxy.  Without stars, there's little chance of life emerging on any astral body orbiting one.  Once again, it gives me that odd feeling about the incredible rarity of life, anywhere. 

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Basics courtesy of Sky & Telescope, R&L, Skywatcher, Spacecom. 

 

 

11 comments:

ma24179 said...

I read about this... It is amazing. - Missy

bhbner2him said...

Absolutely right!  Incredible odds for life to exist.  -  Barbara

gazker said...

Knowing my luck, I will be waiting to pay in Sainsburys as we finaly colide and won't have a thing in the cupboards as we try to survive!
Oh well, there's always Mac Donalds.......... Second thoughts, I'll starve!
Gaz
Ps, That was  GREAT PIC, I love anything to do with space.

kirkbyj05 said...

Fascinating topic.  I just love to use my imagination when I read this kind of subject.  For some reason or another it always draws me into hypothesising how the universe began.  Even right back to the big bang....there must have been something to originate that in the first place...and so we go on and on and on....perpetual life, in all its forms, time and motion.  
Inspiring entry.   Ta muchly!
Jeanie xx

luddie343 said...

Author(Cathy) 2 Jeanie:  I've heard it said that by closing your eyes tightly you get a small idea of what "time" looked like before the Big Bang created space.  Interesting, eh?  

kemh632 said...

cool picture!

princesssaurora said...

Totally cool isn't it?  Amazing...

be well,
Dawn

pharmolo said...

The universe never ceases to amaze me, Cathy

acoward15 said...

5 billion years. I've got time to finish my coffee then!
http://journals.aol.co.uk/acoward15/andy-the-bastard

preciousone25 said...

Very interesting....  Hmm 5 billion years... I'm glad I won't be around.... = )

Joann

jmorancoyle said...

     Amazing.
Jude
http://journal.aol.com/jmorancoyle/MyWay