Friday, August 10, 2007

Intergalactic pileup

BBC reports: [edited]

Four gigantic galaxies have been seen crashing into one another in one of the biggest cosmic collisions ever seen.

A US team of astronomers observed the four-way cosmic smash-up using Nasa's Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes along with ground-based observatories.

The clashing galaxies are expected to eventually merge into a single, behemoth galaxy up to 10 times as massive as our own Milky Way.

Dr Rines likened the collision to "four sand trucks smashing together, flinging their contents everywhere". The new quadruple merger was discovered serendipitously during a survey of massive galaxy clusters consisting of tens to hundreds of galaxies.

The Spitzer Space Telescope spotted an unusually large fan-shaped plume of light emerging from a gathering of four elliptical galaxies in the cluster CL0958+4702, which is located nearly five billion light-years from Earth.

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