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Hubble Takes Pictures of Colliding Galaxies 74

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the hope-they-have-a-good-insurance-company dept.
Jerry Smith writes "The Register reports that the Hubble Space Telescope is still going strong, and took snapshots of two colliding galaxies. The sizes average between thousands and hundreds of thousand light years, containing ten million to one trillion stars. The process took hundreds of millions of years, and will take many more hundreds of millions of years."
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Hubble Takes Pictures of Colliding Galaxies

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  • collision (Score:4, Informative)

    by sporkme (983186) * on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:20PM (#16479895) Homepage
    Just... wow. Great to see that there is life in the old girl yet. Our galaxy is to suffer a similar fate [haydenplanetarium.org], some 3 billion years hence.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Scutter (18425)
      I remember reading, as a kid, an article in some kids' magazine about the creation of the mirror for the Hubble. In particular, I remember reading about this hairline crack they found and how they weren't sure if it would destroy the mirror altogether. Ultimately, to fix it, they cored out the area, leaving a small circular hole. When they finished polishing, the mirror (even with the hole) was even more accurate than they had originally hoped. It's kinda cool to still see pictures and science like this
    • At first I read it as 3 million years, and was a bit worried.
  • the fate that awaits our own galaxy, which is likely to collide with the (cosmically) nearish Andromeda galaxy in about six billion years time
    Intersting stuff.. but when you consider time scales like this what kind of practical applications does this have? Can anyone explain what knowledge is gained from these pretty pictures?
    • I think this just falls under the "Damn Cool" category.
    • by wanerious (712877) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:56PM (#16480233) Homepage
      Intersting stuff.. but when you consider time scales like this what kind of practical applications does this have?

      Um, none? I suppose I could try to think of some technological offshoot of current astrophysical science, but to be safe let's just round down to 0. Is this "practicality" the metric by which you think we ought to measure all scientific findings?

      Can anyone explain what knowledge is gained from these pretty pictures?

      Ah, now this is easier. Watching a close interaction between galaxies helps understand collisions we see happening further away, and tightens constraints on cosmological and galactic evolution models (the latter is what I worked on). Of course the pretty pictures are shown to the public --- we're far more interested in the high-resolution spectra of these regions. Starburst regions are of intense interest because of the degree to which the nebulae are enriched promptly with elements like sulfer, silicon, and oxygen (from high-mass, short-lived stars). Then when we see these bright regions in more distant galaxies with a certain ratio of elemental abundances we can make a guess as to the age of the region and perhaps the embedding galaxy. The spectra of many regions also gives us dynamic information about the system's interaction, yielding a good estimate of the total mass interacting gravitationally. We can use these more precise measurements to constrain galactic dark matter models and distributions. And I'm sure there are a hundred other areas of specialized research that will be influenced by high-resolution data of galactic collisions.

      • Um, none? I suppose I could try to think of some technological offshoot of current astrophysical science, but to be safe let's just round down to 0. Is this "practicality" the metric by which you think we ought to measure all scientific findings?

        In terms of the practical application of the results of the research.. I'd agree with you. However, if you look at the technological advances that have been catalyzed by astrphysics, people might be somewhat surprised.. CCDs were pretty much discarded after their

      • by ffoiii (226358)
        I believe it was the process of modeling galaxy collisions that led to the discovery of dark matter. They realized that the models didn't work like what they saw in space until they added significantly more mass to each galaxy. What's the usefulness of dark matter you say? I don't know, but I still believe in pure research.
    • Intersting stuff.. but when you consider time scales like this what kind of practical applications does this have?

      This helps people to understand what our galaxy will look like right about the time that they send their last check to Capital One, paying off that 30" display they used to enjoy looking at the high-res version of the picture in question.
    • The human race has long ago begun to wonder if we are alone in the universe. Sadly, given the lack of evidence of extraterrestrial life we've begun to lose faith in the value of space travel. This sort of research might give us a faint glimmer of hope that we were a little early to the show and yes, one day there will be green alien women that we can mate with in a kirkish wharfgasm of intergalactic pleasure.
    • If people like you ran the world, we'd still be fighting off sabertooth tigers with flint-tipped spears.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I think you're being optimistic with the flint tips.
    • the fate that awaits our own galaxy, which is likely to collide with the (cosmically) nearish Andromeda galaxy in about six billion years time
      Intersting stuff.. but when you consider time scales like this what kind of practical applications does this have? Can anyone explain what knowledge is gained from these pretty pictures?

      You may not appreciate it now, but six billion years from now you'll be glad that someone was paying attention.

      Only six billion years to armageddon.
      Have you built your bomb shelter ye

    • Considering that in about 5 billion years time it's projected that earth will be inside the sun (a red giant by that time) I think you'll have other things to panic over...
    • "Intersting stuff.."

      It is interesting, which is why they're reporting this in the mass-media, and saving all the scientific breakthroughs, theory corroborations and nitty-gritty stuff in trade journals you don't read.

      "but when you consider time scales like this what kind of practical applications does this have?"

      None... none at all that I can see. Of course, you're assuming that to find this out was the point of the research, which is probably a very, very, very stupid thing to assume.

      Which is more likely:
    • Intersting stuff.. but when you consider time scales like this what kind of practical applications does this have?

      A greater understanding of the laws of gravity. We can construct simulations of colliding galaxies [hubblesite.org], but being able to see the real thing helps confirm those theories.
    • Don't worry about Andromeda. It's not the closest galaxy to us. In fact the article had it wrong in saying that the pictured collision is the nearest to earth. It's not. The Milky Way is in the middle of a collision with another galaxy which is closer to us than the center of the Milky Way. It's called the Canis Major Dwarf. [wikipedia.org]
    • How's this for a practical application:

      Survival of the human species. This is a social & political application, not scientific.

      When you read the newspaper for the past 100 years, there's evidence the species might destroy itself. Often, wars happen because people don't understand their place in the universe. For example, a country can be run by people who believe a deity will save the faithful, so world turmoil and war is ok. Other times, wars are a symptom of tyranny (somebody wants "power").

  • Higher quality image (Score:5, Informative)

    by bcat24 (914105) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:21PM (#16479911) Homepage Journal
    You can find a really high resolution copy (3915x3885 as a TIFF or JPEG) of the image here [hubblesite.org]. Hmm, this might make a pretty desktop wallpaper.
    • by CrazyJim1 (809850)
      Yah I just made it my wall paper before reading comments. Before I had the last hubble post from Slashdot.
  • The real proof that there is order to the universe.
  • you mean 6000? Cause thats how long ago God created the universe...

    Seriously, instead of funding real science like the hubble and other versatile projects, we're funding crazy "man to mars" missions and finishing the ISS so that we can dump it into the ocean... we could probably stand to have a decent collider project here (on earth) also, to compete with some of the others that are soon to come online / being proposed. Either that or we can all move to mars, or wait for God to come back.
    • As far as I know, Hubble's replacement [nasa.gov] is doing just fine, on schedule and fully funded.

      As for colliders -- the last time colliders were fully funded (around the time the SSC was cancelled, many years ago) -- we spent half our national research budget on high-energy physics. That's excessive. There are many, many other interesting fields of science, from molecular biology to condensed matter physics to mesoscale material science to climate modeling. I don't see why HEP, admittedly interesting as it is, h
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pimpimpim (811140)
      Funny indeed that the same government that does not object to the ideas of creationism, is at the same time supporting space exploration.

      Or maybe stopping the support for the hubble is in line with this, as all this research about billions-year old galaxies is of course blasphemous, while the our own solar system is of course only 6000 years old.

      It's all so funny, I wish I could laugh about it :(

      • by spun (1352)
        Well, you see, urm, how to break this to you? Might as well just come out with it: God is a sick sociopathic prankster. He created everything ~6,000 years ago, but made it all look much older just to fuck with people. He created all the light from these distant galaxies already on its way here, just so we would think the universe is older than the Bible says. Then he can laugh, "Ha-ha! You fell for it, you go to hell. Sorry, thanks for playing."

        But the Bible also says to go out and know the universe He buil
        • by pimpimpim (811140)
          Hey thanx! Now I can laugh about it! Furthermore, I guess the God I believe in [ohnorobot.com] is probably close to a psychopathic prankster anyway, so at least I'm prepared.
  • "When Two Worlds Collide"
    (Dave Murray, Blaze Bayley, Steve Harris)

    - - -

    my telescope looks out into the stars tonight
    a little speck of light seems twice the size tonight
    the calculations are so fine
    can it be growing all the time?

    now I can't believe it's true
    and I don't know what to do
    for the hundredth time I check the declination

    now the fear starts to grow
    even my computer shows
    there are no errors in the calculations

    now it's happened, take no other view
    collision course, you must believe it's true
    now there's no
    • [When Worlds Collide]
      By Powerman 5000

      What is it really
      That's going on here
      You've got your system for total control
      So is there really anybody out there
      Now watch us suffer cause we can't go
      What is it really that is in your head
      What little life that you had just died
      I'm gonna be the one that's takin over
      Now this is what it's like when worlds collide

      Are you ready to go
      Cause I'm ready to go
      What you gonna do baby baby
      Are you going with me
      Cause I'm going with you
      It's the end of
    • ...... We need to call harrison ford, right now.
    • Your world was so different From mine don't you see We just couldn't be close Though we tried. We both reached for heavens But ours weren't the same That's what happens When two worlds collide. Your world was made up Of things sweet and good My world could never Fit in, wish it could. Two hearts lie in shambles And oh. how they've cried That's what happens When two worlds collide
  • "The process took hundreds of millions of years, and will take many more hundreds of millions of years".

    Man the guy operating the camera needs to be sacked! Oh wait, they mean the galaxies not the picture.

    • by aminorex (141494)

      > The sizes average between thousands and hundreds of thousand light years, containing ten million to one trillion stars.

      Cut the guy some slack: Those were some amazingly large "snapshots".
  • Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Starker_Kull (896770) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:46PM (#16480581)
    Anyone who says that they don't understand why people find science beautiful need to be directed to this photo for a clue.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nimey (114278)
      Just so you know, that and pretty much any astronomical picture is false-color. Still pretty, but scientists gave it a helping hand.
    • by GrayCalx (597428)
      Anyone who says that they don't understand why people find science beautiful need to be directed to this photo for a clue.

      Hehehe, who says that? I can honestly say I've never had someone tell me, "Ya know science is ugly. I just don't understand why you think its beautiful. The fat thighs, the double chin. Seriously you're a chubby-chaser, a chubby-science-chaser."

      Hahaha, who has conversations like that? What kind of arguments are you getting into with people? "Listen, I don't care what you thin
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Chosen Reject (842143)
        But then you would be wrong. Artisits have nothing to do with these pictures. Several images are taken in different spectrums which are grayscale versions of those pictures. Then the grayscale is put into red, green, or blue only color and three of them combined to make one picture. False color yes, because the spectrums the grayscale pictures are taken are not necessarily red, green and blue, but artists have nothing to do with it. Sometimes they choose color spectrums to enhance, sometimes to make it
  • I realize that there are intense and complex forces at work during this process, and it would be interesting to know what the impact would be on star systems within the galaxies...[this is the cue for astrologists in the audience to give their scientific input on the matter]
  • by Zenicetus (1014959) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @12:02AM (#16481041)
    This is a very cool object, and because it's (relatively) close, it's visible to the human eyeball in a large amateur telescope, at a dark sky site (not QUITE like this Hubble image, obviously).

    I've tracked it down in my old 18" Newtonian/Dobsonian. With averted vision, you can see two "tails" twisting off the pair, much further out in the field than these Hubble images. Here's what it looks like in an amateur scope, but imagine it as just a dim hint in the eyepiece:

    http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/1997/34/images/ c/formats/web.jpg [hubblesite.org]

    It's nothing at all like the Hubble image... just a hint of grey glow in the eyepiece, but still... there is something about seeing the actual photons from the object hitting your retina that's exciting, for us amateur astronomy geeks, anyway.
    • by catman (1412)
      Thanks! It really shows why it's called the antenna galaxy :-)
      Cool ...
  • Dupe? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The process took hundreds of millions of years, and will take many more hundreds of millions of years.
    If this isn't a dupe, it's bound to happen.
  • by gardyloo (512791) on Wednesday October 18, 2006 @01:09AM (#16481391)
    ... it looks like *someone* is highly anticipating the release of Debian 'Etch'....
  • Somewhere out there is one REALLY big banana peel.
  • Old news! (Score:2, Funny)

    by j_snare (220372)
    From TFA: "the collision began about 500m years ago"

    Man, just can't get anything but old news around here. Digg reported this 499 million years ago!
  • Imagine what the people who live in those galaxies are thinking...

    Some are watching the approaching onrush of supergiants, counting down their star system's remaining few thousand years of life.

    Some are on a planet trapped in a dust cloud, wondering about the meaning of the dim legends that refer to bright points of light that once showed in the night sky.

    Some are frantically transmitting radio signals to the rest of the universe, to announce "Look! I, too, was once alive."

    Some are hauling themselves o

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Chosen Reject (842143)
      You don't have to look so far away. The Milky Way is not all that quiet seeing as how we have a galaxy passing right through us right now as well. The Canis Major Dwarf [wikipedia.org] is closer to Earth the center of the Milky Way.
    • by spun (1352)
      From what I have read, galactic collisions like this would mean little for most inhabitants of said galaxies except for a prettier night sky. Space is amazingly, vastly, mind-bogglingly big. The only thing "colliding" is dust and gas. Stars don't even, generally, come much closer to other stars than they would in a non-colliding galaxy. Clouds of dust are still mostly empty space, and solar wind would generally keep the area near the life zone of a star fairly clear anyway. However, a few tens of millions o
    • by quag7 (462196)
      They're thinking, "And to think, many light years away, people are having serious discussions about how horrible and ravaging a debilitating WoW habits can be."
  • by Ranx (28829)
    I can't wait 'till we have enough photo's to make an animation of two colliding galaxies.

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