Galactic Hit-n-Run

While I’m not really certain what this all means, it has lead to some really amazing images and movies.

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. This infrared photograph taken with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope revealed a never-before-seen dust ring deep within the Andromeda galaxy (highlighted by the inset). 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.

Check-out a high resolution image of the collision (2.1 MB) and a great simulation of the collision.

According to a press release connected to the images, the findings may be important for the clues they might provide about our own galaxies’ future. Similar to collision pictured above,

"Astronomers have predicted that Andromeda and the Milky Way will collide in approximately 5 to 10 billion years. That collision will erase the separate identities of each galaxy, leaving a single elliptical galaxy in their place."

At least we’re not going to be around for that one, right? 🙂