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Image of the Day: The Largest Galactic Mashup in the Universe





In a galactic replay of merging of the Earth's tectonic plates into a massive supercontinent known as Pangea 250 million years ago, the Spitzer Space Telescope caught images of four massive galaxies slamming into each other and kicking up billions of stars like grains of sand! As the largest galactic pileup in the known universe, it will produce a huge offspring.

The massive collision will eventually cause the four galaxies to become a single behemoth galaxy that will be about 10 times bigger than our Milky Way. From a scientific perspective, this rare sighting provide and unprecedented look at how the most massive galaxies form.

The new quadruple merger was discovered serendipitously during a Spitzer survey of a distant cluster of galaxies, called CL0958+4702, located nearly five billion light-years away. The infrared telescope first spotted an unusually large fan-shaped plume of light coming out of a gathering of four blob-shaped, or elliptical, galaxies. Three of the galaxies are about the size of the Milky Way, while the fourth is three times as big.

"Most of the galaxy mergers we already knew about are like compact cars crashing together," said Kenneth Rines of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. "What we have here is like four sand trucks smashing together, flinging sand everywhere."

Some of the stars tossed outward in the monstrous merger will orbit in isolated areas outside the borders of any of the galaxies. Such abandoned stars would have planets with night-time views strikingly different from our own. Rather than seeing many individual stars, there would be more visible galaxies adorning the night sky.

Collisions between galaxies are believed to be a major force in shaping our universe. Our own galaxy cannibalizes on smaller galaxies that come to close and are sucked in, as it has for millions of years. Though stars in merging galaxies are tossed around like grains of sand, the shear quantity of space between objects ultimately allows the galaxies to survive the ride. Our Milky Way galaxy is due to collide with a much bigger “sister” spiral galaxy, Andromeda, in about five billion years.

While mergers between pairs of galaxies that are similar, or one big galaxy and several smaller ones, has already been documented—no major mergers between multiple hefty “big rig” galaxies have ever been seen until now. Three of the galaxies are the size of the Milky Way, while the fourth is three times as big. Rines says the size of the completely merged galaxy will be impressive indeed.

"When this merger is complete, this will be one of the biggest galaxies in the universe."

The Daily Galaxy via http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/news


With so many stars, I wonder if any of the planets in this galaxy harbor intelligent life. Of course it would take 5 billion years to get a signal from them!

Please explain. The TV says the universe is expanding and the galaxies are flying apart like dots on an inflating balloon.
So far so good. Now they are colliding. I have an Ipad mini and a app that shows you galaxies smashing into each other. You can speed it up or down.
SO what happened to the dots on the rubber balloon, is the TV wrong.

The TV is sort of correct in the description of the universe expanding like a balloon. However, the gravity of various objects, such as entire galaxies, bring them close to each other on occasion. In this case, it's four galaxies that will at one point become one, large galaxy. This will probably happen to the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies in the distant future some 4 to 5 billion years from now. I did read an article that these two galaxies (the Milky Way is the one we live in) have already made a close fly-by some time in the past.

The difference is that space-time is expanding, while the objects embedded in space-time (in the universe) move around.

The collision of these galaxies are 5 billion light years away and is just as old, so the event is (has) taking (taken) place some 5 billion years ago. From the time of this event to the present; what would s computer simulation of this mega galaxy look like? The light of the present day galaxy will not reach us till some 5 billion years from now, and the solar system will only be around some 2 billion years from now. Will humanity be around some 5 billion years from now?

The Universe as a whole is expanding. There are some areas in the Universe where the Galaxies are close enough to each other to be attracted together by gravity. Even thought the Universe is expanding we still have gravity otherwise we'd all be flying off the earth!

Thank you. I can now watch Discovery channel again without worrying.

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