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Violent Galactic Clash May Solve Cosmic Mystery

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the right-to-bear-galactic-arms dept.

Space 56

astroengine writes "The mother of all cosmic collisions has been spotted between two galaxies containing a total of 400 billion stars, igniting the birth of 2,000 new stars per year! This incredible event was first spotted by the recently-retired Herschel infrared space observatory (abstract), a mission managed by the European Space Agency. This violent discovery isn't just awesome to look at, it could also help explain how massive, red elliptical galaxies evolved in the early universe."

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56 comments

That's just go being angry (0)

cod3r_ (2031620) | about a year ago | (#43796499)

Don't piss him off.

Re:That's just go being angry (0)

cod3r_ (2031620) | about a year ago | (#43796513)

AHH FAIL.. meant god.. whatevs

Old Xwindows screen saver. (4, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43796545)

I had wasted way too many hours mesmerized by that screen saver of galaxies colliding on xwindows.
I would try to make bets which galaxy would come out on top. The big one or the small one that is tightly bound. Or world they just merge together into a super galaxy, or will they both explode. Sigh my GPA would probably have been a few points higher if it wasn't for that screensaver.

Re:Old Xwindows screen saver. (2, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#43796735)

GPA would probably have been a few points higher if it wasn't for that screensaver.

Yes, or we would have discovered SETI - and you'd have a giant pile of Bitcoin - with alternate uses for all those "wasted" cycles!

In my day? It was fractint that caused hypnosis. Curse you, Stone Soup Group!

Enough is enough. End the violence. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43796565)

Clearly the only way to put a stop to this violence is to ban telescopes.

Think of the aliens (4, Interesting)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about a year ago | (#43796587)

I'm curious how many aliens are dying on the planets surrounding the colliding stars?

Re:Think of the aliens (4, Informative)

osu-neko (2604) | about a year ago | (#43796611)

Most likely none. When galaxies "collide", they merge gravitationally, but stars don't run into one another. Thing of how small a star is compared to the vast space between them. The odds of two stars colliding are so small, even when you have literally billions of them heading towards one another, the odds of a collision are extremely remote.

Re:Think of the aliens (4, Funny)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about a year ago | (#43796717)

All we need to do is wait a while and we will experience this first hand. The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are moving towards each other and will collide in about four billion years. Stake out your spot on the roof now because it is going to be quite a show.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#43797425)

Enjoy the show. I've got an underground bunker built just for this!

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43797557)

Unless it's under some kind of hyperdimensional/hyperspace "ground", I don't think a bunker will help you much... ;)

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43801279)

There's still time to fix any flaws.

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43797667)

If two pitchers stand on a mound and each throw a baseball in a random direction at the exact same time, how is it possible for the two baseballs to eventually collide? Because common sense says it is not possible barring interference by the atmosphere -- which does not exist in space.

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43799105)

Common sense is not so common.
  For instance, you have none. Every aspect of your answer, from a central point of the pitchers mound, to the assignment of randomness is fundamentally flawed and inappropriate. I understand you are desperately trying to use an analogy, but it's cars we were looking for AC, CARS...Next question -- alien galaxies for $400!

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

tragedy (27079) | about a year ago | (#43799197)

Well, if the baseballs have elastic cords stuck to them, it certainly becomes possible. If we're doing some sort of analogy to galaxies colliding here we can call the elastic cords: "gravity".

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about a year ago | (#43799799)

yes if you change his argument, we can include elastic cords. But you still have to define randomness as "guided missile" and not possible as "possible" then his statement makes more sense.
That's why we stick with car analogies. Then you could have defined the baseballs as cars traveling in opposite directions, but running on Mr. Fusion, and while the cars would never collide, The air from the tires would.
ok , maybe we should skip the car analogy this time.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

tragedy (27079) | about a year ago | (#43800359)

Change his argument?! Are you joking? I may have misread the analogy, but the poster I replied to seemed to be implying either that there were no forces in the universe that would cause galaxies to go into collision courses or, alternately, that the universe isn't expanding. That's what I got from the stilted baseball analogy, anyway. My point was that there are more forces in play in the Universe than his little model/analogy accounts for. That's not changing his argument, that's just telling him that his model is broken and incomplete.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

strikethree (811449) | about a year ago | (#43801917)

will collide in about four billion years.

IIRC, our planet will not really be inhabitable by then due to the Sun's growth due to the Sun needing to burn helium and other heavier elements instead of hydrogen.

Re:Think of the aliens (2)

mmcxii (1707574) | about a year ago | (#43796743)

True but it may not have to be a direct collision. I wonder how close a one solar mass star would have to get to Earth to pull us out of orbit enough to effectively turn Earth into a lifeless planet.

Does anyone have simulation software that could be used to handle these kinds of questions? Windows/Linux/OSX, it doesn't matter.

Re:Think of the aliens (3, Informative)

Tim12s (209786) | about a year ago | (#43796921)

All you need is something massive to move through the asteroid belt for a number of asteroids to get scattered across our solar system like someone breaking open a game of pool. The net result is that one of those astroids will hit likely hit us or hopefully the moon.

You'd also be assuming that the moons orbit doesnt change drastically. That may have some fundamental change in forces which might not affect the oceans but it would most likely result in a large number of earthquakes as the system tries to find some new balance between the new orbit and the internal spin of the earth vs the crust.

Re:Think of the aliens (2)

mmcxii (1707574) | about a year ago | (#43797181)

I wouldn't worry about another great bombardment from the asteroid belt. It has a total mass less than 1/10th of 1% of that of the Earth and Ceres makes up a quarter or so of that. We might get dinged a bit but I find it unlikely that something is going to change the orbit of Ceres and send it into the orbital path of the Earth but at the same time not having enough gravitational effect to pull Earth from its own orbit. Much less something being able to strip us of our moon but leaving us unaffected.

Not to say it couldn't happen but it seems so remote that I wouldn't put any money on it.

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43799169)

Almost, think Ort cloud. I would say inside a couple light years would scramble us up a bit. Budging the Earth wouldn't happen, the effect of gravity would be much more pronounced on the outer planets and would probably be enough to do some serious damage.

Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43796933)

Rather Close. We have a star 4 light years away that isn't doing much to our orbit.

Re:Think of the aliens (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43797057)

It wouldn't need to pull us out of orbit by much. It would likely happen veeerrrrry slowly as the star approached. Even then, we're VERY close to the sun, so it would have to come well inside our solar system to have a really significant effect. There's such a huge number of variables involved, I'm not sure you could make a realistic model with modern computers and mathematics.

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43802061)

Exactly; Jupiter an Neptune are both fairly massive (not entirely compared to Sol, but to Earth they are), and they're only about 45-120 light-minutes away at their nearest point. They don't have much of an impact on the orbits of the internal planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars)

For something to knock us out of orbit, even slightly, it would have to be either incredibly massive (orders-of-magnitude above Solar mass) and very close (

Alternatively, it could just bump into us and give us a nudge, but that's far less likely

I wrote such a simulation at Caltech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43797117)

Physics 20, Computational Physics. IBM gave us five million dollars of funny money, meaning we could spend it any way we wanted provide we spend it at the IBM Company Store.

Thus the Computational Physics lab was quite tastefully appointed with expensive computer desk, each computer had its own printer rather than a shared one, and there were a dozen or True-Blue 8086 ATs. I don't recall, but they were likely running MS-DOS 3.0 or so. I myself installed all the 8087s that the chair of Tech's computational physics program gave me.

It's not hard at all to simulate the capture of a planet by an invading star. It was my favorite lab exercise. I started with BASIC, later Pascal.

F = mA: Force equals Mass times Accelleration

F = Gm1m2/r^2: Force is proportional to the product of the masses, divided by the square of the distance. The proportional factor is known as the Gravitational Constant, upper case, not to be confused with lowercase g, the Earth's particular gravity.

You use something called the Runge-Kutta method. It's a stairstep approximation, but it adjusts its guesses both left and right so errors don't accumulate so much.

The origin of Dark Matter awareness came from an Institute professor who modeled spiral galaxies in FORTRAN the very same way, then animated a static computer display by snapping frames with an 8 mm movie camera and cable release.

He demonstrated that the stars we could see in other galaxies could not possibly be preventing them from flying apart due to their own rotation.

That movie was quite cool to watch. I expect he did the calculations on a DEC VAX 11/780 or 11/750 running VMS. Back in those days a 750 cost a quarter million dollars, despite being somewhat less powerful than an 80386 PC. Imagine my shock when a 750 turned up at the Weird Stuff Warehouse in Sunnyvale, apparently in brand new condition, for just three hundred bucks!

Michael D. Crawford [goingware.com] , posting as AC because I can't be bothered to recover my password.

Re:I wrote such a simulation at Caltech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43798911)

Writing such a program should be left as an exercise for all but the most casual observer. I remember doing so as one of the first programs I wrote (in basic unfortunately...), and anyone with some algebra can make such a program (calculus helps to understand why the integration methods need attention and work though). The only hard part, relatively speaking, might be visualizing the output.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

Zargg (1596625) | about a year ago | (#43799721)

True but it may not have to be a direct collision. I wonder how close a one solar mass star would have to get to Earth to pull us out of orbit enough to effectively turn Earth into a lifeless planet.

Does anyone have simulation software that could be used to handle these kinds of questions? Windows/Linux/OSX, it doesn't matter.

http://universesandbox.com/ [universesandbox.com]

Should be good enough to do what you want!

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43797043)

Stars wouldn't have to physically collide for a civ to die, I should think. Even mild perturbation of orbit might take a given planet out of its habitable zone for long enough, once or cyclically; all manner of electro-magnetic manifestations could really mess things up; enough dust might interfere with what a planet's civ finds needful from its sun.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43797143)

I could see some scenarios in which a species might survive a relatively steep orbital perturbation - IE: an ice planet like some of our system's moons in which they rely more on the heat of a molten core or tidal forces with a neighboring body than their star's radiation. Of course, the above assume the perturbation is *away* from the parent star. Moving towards the parent star would likely just boil away everything needed for life no matter how thick the ice above.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about a year ago | (#43799321)

By that time, we should have the ability to move the planet back to a more favourable orbit, if we so desire.

Or, perhaps, combine it with our farming planets into a Klemperer Rosette, and flee.

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43798617)

You don't know how to spell "civilisation", do you?

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43800201)

Nope. Neither do you. [grin]

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43800279)

Uhh, that is the correct spelling.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43802905)

Let me guess, you're too lazy to look it up or you have a dull axe to grind?

There are two accepted spellings, one favoured in the USA, the other by those who got and retain their English spellings from the Brits. Are you gonna carp on "favoured" too?

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/civilization [reference.com]
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/civilization [thefreedictionary.com]
http://www.studyenglishtoday.net/british-american-spelling.html [studyenglishtoday.net]
http://www.lukemastin.com/testing/spelling/cgi-bin/database.cgi?action=view_category&database=spelling&category=C [lukemastin.com]
http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2011/09/civilise-civilize.html [grammarphobia.com]
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/civilization [oxforddictionaries.com]
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/civilised [wiktionary.org]

The above ought to be sufficient to get you started, if you have any interest in improving your understanding. You could have done this on your own hook if you really had an interest or gave a shit. Or perhaps you derive pleasure from pressing keys in pursuit of fucking with people, or some such? Any case, I'm sooo oughta here.

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43806851)

When did I ever say that "civilization" wasn't an accepted spelling in the USA? In your ignorance, you said it was incorrect and I said that it is the correct spelling; which is it in most of the world outside of the USA.

You are even more stupid than I had previously thought. Not only do you lack spelling ability, you also lack basic English reading comprehension.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43808815)

No, you said it was _the_ correct spelling.

Had you simply said there is another accepted spelling everything would've been copacetic; instead you chose to accuse me of being unable to spell. As for comprehension, you apparently elided over the [grin] as well.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

keytoe (91531) | about a year ago | (#43797427)

Will our sun collide directly with another star? Not likely. Will there be earth-like planets in the aftermath? Certainly so. Will those be the same planets as before the collision? I sincerely doubt it.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

painandgreed (692585) | about a year ago | (#43798391)

Most likely none. When galaxies "collide", they merge gravitationally, but stars don't run into one another. Thing of how small a star is compared to the vast space between them. The odds of two stars colliding are so small, even when you have literally billions of them heading towards one another, the odds of a collision are extremely remote.

No, there probably will not be very many collisions of stars. However, there probably will be large disruption of large objects in oort clouds around such systems. The few millions of years during the collision and few million years after will be a time of large comets and possibly even some "dwarf planets" crashing through some otherwise stable star systems in erratic orbits as they get disturbed.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

vandamme (1893204) | about a year ago | (#43806955)

Nibiru!

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

strikethree (811449) | about a year ago | (#43801869)

You are assuming that they are dying due to collisions. It would be a spectacular way to die but I am willing to guess that most of them are dying due to radiation poisoning from all of the star formation and supernova events (huge new stars do not live long!).

In other words, it is likely that entire civilizations are (were) being destroyed from radiation and a constant rain of galactic dust.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

CharlieHedlin (102121) | about a year ago | (#43796751)

Probably none, this was ancient history and the universe was too young. This happened 11 billion years ago.

I really want to figure out how to make an really old news joke out of this.

Re:Think of the aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43797093)

11 billion years ago? Slashdot always picks up yesterday's news!

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

fredrated (639554) | about a year ago | (#43796859)

Most likely they are all dead by now, 11 billion years later.

Re:Think of the aliens (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43797837)

I'm curious how many aliens are dying on the planets surrounding the colliding stars?

In red elliptical galaxies, the class conflict is inevitable, comrade.

Herschel spotted this just before retirement? (1)

TWX (665546) | about a year ago | (#43796737)

Then I think we ought to at least give him Emeritus status!

Does this qualify as 'valuable research' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43796805)

under those Canadian research guidelines? I'm guessing not quite. It's good that some research funding around the globe is not (yet?) corrupted by the 'must have commercial applications to have value' mantra.

War of the Worlds, part deux (1)

RavenousRhesus (2683045) | about a year ago | (#43797759)

War of the Galaxies.

gravitational lens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43797807)

The picture looks more like a gravitational lens to me.

How can they merge? (1)

X10 (186866) | about a year ago | (#43797825)

I thought spiral galaxies that collide don't actually merge, because their stars don't collide. The dust and gas however, does merge. So what you have after the "collision" of two spiral galaxies is two galaxies without dust and gas that move away from each other, and a cloud of dust and gas that remains in the middle.

Re:How can they merge? (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#43798857)

It is more complex than you suggest.

Re:How can they merge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43799207)

seriously? So gravity acts preferentially on gas between gravitationally bound objects but ignores the 99% of the rest of the mass?
And I suppose the 2 galaxies moving toward each other is Brownian motion on a galactic scale..

Re:How can they merge? (1)

tragedy (27079) | about a year ago | (#43799269)

Galaxies are collections of stars (and their satellites and interstellar dust and gas, etc.) bound together by gravitational forces (and maybe other forces we don't understand yet). When galaxies collide, they can merge without their stars physically colliding. The forces that bind the separate galaxies and allow us to think of them as discrete objects will bind the two galaxies into one discrete object without requiring that the individual stars merge. For your objection to make sense, galaxies would have to consist of only one giant black hole with no stars.

Watch out for Eddorans! (1)

EdZ (755139) | about a year ago | (#43798751)

Can we name one of them "Lundmark's Nebula"? Though we'd have to name a star in the other galaxy 'Arisia'...

Re:Watch out for Eddorans! (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about a year ago | (#43799335)

I think that's a pretty Ploor effort.

Re: Watch out for Eddorans! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43799653)

Wasn't Starship on Arisia Records label?

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