- Title: SOUTH AFRICA: Astronomers and their teams solve a 200-million year-old riddle
- Date: 20th October 2006
- Summary: (EU) JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (OCTOBER 19, 2006) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF THE ASTRONOMY STUDENTS AND OFFICIALS SEATED; ASTROPHYSICIST GIOVANNI FAZIO LISTENING; TELESCOPE DESIGNED BY ASTROPHYSICIST GIOVANNI FAZIO (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROJECT LEADER PROFESSOR DAVID BLOCK SAYING: "Tonight we announce to the world that Andromeda has suffered a violent head-on collision. It is unprecedented. There are two glowing rings of fire, an outer ring which has been known before and this newly discovered inner ring of fire which is the signature of a head-on collision." IMAGES OF COLLISION (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROJECT LEADER PROFESSOR DAVID BLOCK SAYING: "This head-on collision occurred only 200-million years ago when dinosaurs were already roaming the earth. It is extremely revolutionary in that the collision happened, in cosmological terms, as if it was yesterday and it sheds unprecedented new insights into the way of the dynamics in which galaxies are formed." IMAGES SHOWING HOW COLLISION HAPPENED AUDIENCE APPLAUDING
- Embargoed: 4th November 2006 12:00
- Location: South Africa
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: History,Science / Technology
- Reuters ID: LVA755SI33DPGCWK3OLT78UPXG43
- Story Text: The recently discovered collision of two galaxies milions of years ago, which sparked rings of fire that are still expanding, may offer new clues on the origins of the universe, astronomers said on Thursday (October 19).
New images of the Andromeda Galaxy were captured by an infrared camera aboard the Spitzer Space Telescope and are described in meticulous detail in the latest edition of science journal 'Nature'.
The cosmic crash is believed to have happened some 210 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, but is a relatively recent occurrence in the grander scheme of time, scientists said.
"This head-on collision occurred only 200-million years ago when dinosaurs were already roaming the earth. It is extremely revolutionary in that the collision happened, in cosmological terms, as if it was yesterday and it sheds unprecedented new insights into the way of the dynamics in which galaxies are formed," David Block, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who led the research project, told reporters and students at the release of the findings.
After the images from the telescope were entered into a computer model, it revealed how a small galaxy hit the center, or "sweet spot", of its larger neighbor with such force it fired off new stars, space dust and two rings of fire.
Roughly comparable to a ripple effect from a stone dropped in water, the rings continue to spread at a rate of 50 kilometres a second.
On a clear night, the Andromeda Galaxy is visible with the naked eye as it is the closest spiral galaxy to Earth -- separated by a distance of about
5 million light years -- and to our own Milky Way Galaxy.
Infrared images can look much deeper into the universe to show how galaxies, stars and planets were first formed and their current make-up.
The pictures offer fresh insight into the ever-changing nature of galaxies, said Harvard University astrophysicist Giovanni Fazio.
Fazio, the mastermind behind the Spitzer is considered one of the world's top space pioneers and was in Johannesburg for the launch.
Astronomers on Tuesday released similar images from the Hubble Space Telescope that also showed a collision of the Antennae galaxies -- located about 68 million light years from the planet Earth.
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