Musings: What is it?

This is a supplementary page, for What is it? (February 7, 2011).

As a reminder, here is the figure:

It's a striking figure. There is no explicit sense of scale, but I suspect many will pick up clues that the figure is astronomical. A spiral galaxy is perhaps a familiar object by now.

What's special here is that we don't have just "a spiral galaxy". We have two of them -- and they are interacting. It is likely that they are merging, according to a recent paper in the Astrophysical Journal.

The central issue in the paper is observing with a particular spectral line (or color) that is not affected by the dust surrounding this type of galaxy. With this technique, they observe several such galaxies, and conclude that most are merging.

Here is a short news story -- with the figure: Astronomy: Merging in the Dust. (Science 330:1022, November 19, 2010.) Scroll down to this item.

The article: Most Submillimeter Galaxies Are Major Mergers. (H Engel et al, Astrophysical Journal 724:233, November 20, 2010.)

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