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posted by on Wednesday April 06, @08:36AM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Andromeda, a massive spiral galaxy, has swallowed several galaxies within the last few billion years before setting its sights on the Milky Way.

"The Milky Way is on a collision course with Andromeda in about four billion years,” said Dougal Mackey, co-author of a new study published in Nature and a research fellow at the Australian National University. “So knowing what kind of a monster our galaxy is up against is useful in finding out the Milky Way's ultimate fate."

The astronomers noted that the stellar halo that surrounds Andromeda is much bigger and more complex than the Milky Way, and it contains two giant globular clusters of stars that are rotating perpendicular to each other, and this indicates that it has cannibalized other galaxies in the past. They made observations using the wide-field camera on the Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope, and this showed that the globular clusters are on the same rotation axis as a plane of dwarf galaxies that orbit Andromeda.

Andromeda is a good specimen to study the evolution of spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, Mackey explained. "One of our main motivations in studying astronomy is to understand our place in the Universe. A way of learning about our galaxy is to study others that are similar to it, and try to understand how these systems formed and evolved.”

"Sometimes this can actually be easier than looking at the Milky Way, because we live inside it and that can make certain types of observations quite difficult."

Reference:

Mackey, D., Lewis, G.F., Brewer, B.J. et al. Two major accretion epochs in M31 from two distinct populations of globular clusters. Nature 574, 69–71 (2019).

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1597-1

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