Sunday, September 6, 2009

Galactic cannibalism seen in real

Our nearest major galactic neighbor, the vast Andromeda galaxy, appears to be a cosmic cannibal that has expanded by digesting stars from other galaxies.

When an international team of scientists mapped the galaxy, they spotted semi-digested remains of dwarf galaxies and streams of stars being sucked into the huge galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. It is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own, the Milky Way.

The largest panoramic survey of Andromeda ever made detects faint stars and giant structures that are remnants of smaller galaxies. Andromeda gobbled them up as part of its ongoing expansion.

Stars and dwarf galaxies that got too close to Andromeda were ripped from their usual surroundings.

"What we're seeing right now is the signs of cannibalism," said study lead author Alan McConnachie of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, British Columbia.

"We're finding things that have been destroyed ... partly digested remains."

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