Skip to comments.New images may give clues on universe's origins (Forensic Evidence of a Galactic Collision)
Posted on 10/18/2006 6:57:39 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The newly discovered collision of two galaxies millions of years ago, which sparked rings of fire that are still expanding, may offer new clues on the origins of the universe, astronomers said on Wednesday.
New images of the Andromeda Galaxy were captured by an infrared camera aboard the Spitzer Space Telescope and are described in the science journal 'Nature'.
The pictures offer fresh insight into the ever-changing nature of galaxies, said Harvard University astrophysicist Giovanni Fazio.
Fazio, the mastermind behind the Spitzer, is considered one of the world's top space pioneers.
"We thought it was a plain, ordinary galaxy with two companions around it. But now we understand its structure. It will be used as a computer model to understand and study the early universe," Fazio said.
The cosmic crash is believed to have happened 210 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, but is a relatively recent occurrence in the grander scheme of time, scientists said.
"That is like this morning in cosmology terms," David Block, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who led the research project, told reporters at the release of the findings.
After the images from the telescope were entered into a computer model, it revealed how a small galaxy hit the center, or "sweet spot," of its larger neighbor with such force it fired off new stars, space dust and two rings of fire.
Roughly comparable to a ripple effect from a stone dropped in water, the rings continue to spread at a rate of 50 km (30 miles) a second.
On a clear night, the Andromeda Galaxy is visible to the naked eye as it is the closest spiral galaxy to Earth -- separated by a distance of about 2.5 million light years -- and to our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Infrared images can look much deeper into the universe to show how galaxies, stars and planets were first formed and their current make-up.
Forensic Evidence of a Galactic Collision
Astronomers have new evidence that the Andromeda spiral galaxy was involved in a violent head-on collision with the neighboring dwarf galaxy Messier 32 (M32) more than 200 million years ago. Infrared photographs taken with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope revealed a never-before-seen dust ring deep within the Andromeda galaxy. When combined with a previously observed outer ring, the presence of both dust rings suggests that M32 plunged through the disk of Andromeda along Andromeda's polar axis approximately 210 million years ago.
This image was obtained by the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) at a wavelength of 8.0 microns.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/D. Block (Anglo American Cosmic Dust Lab, SA)
The Andromeda spiral galaxy is shown in this infrared image taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and released by on October 18, 2006. Astronomers have new evidence that the Andromeda spiral galaxy was involved in a violent head-on collision with the neighboring dwarf galaxy Messier 32 (M32) more than 200 million years ago.
That's why I've been lobbying for some sort of interstellar traffic cop. To prevent this sort of free for all.
A UN of outer space? Thanks, but no. :)
You see what sort of catsastrophe happens when the "market" forces have free rein.
Did Andromeda have collision insurance?
It's all Bush's fault.
If pelosi becomes Speaker of the House, this will become more commonplace.
Ask me if I care.
Tell me what difference it make.
Inform me what I could have done about it then, and what I can do about it if it happens again.
Like Global warming. I had nothing to do with it and there is nothing I can do about it.
Yep! Looks like donuts to meeee! Are we doomed yet?
you gotta wonder what the impact of something like this is on the normal stars in the spiral arms of andromeda. would it just be a vast could of dust, with the impact of 'global kelvin zero' on system planets through the galaxy as the cloud moves through it?
You know I was wondering about that last night.
'Global Kelvin Zero' was a problem a few months ago but with the price of natural gas and heating oil going down I'll just turn up the olde thermo. :>)
Unless one of the stars in the colliding galaxy got improbably close, pretty much nothing you'd notice, other than the star's orbit about the center of mass of it's parent galaxy would be changed. Worst case, it would be thrown out the galaxy, but all that would do would be to make for a very dark night sky on those planets orbiting it.
Good job NASA. Great photos.