The Milk Way galaxy's long-lost sibling was 'devoured' by Andromeda

The Milk Way galaxy's long-lost sibling was 'devoured' by Andromeda

The Milk Way galaxy's long-lost sibling was 'devoured' by Andromeda

The peer-reviewed journal Nature Astronomy published their findings. According to a team of scientists at the University of MI, the Milky Way galaxy would probably still have a sister galaxy had she not been ripped apart and consumed by the Andromeda Galaxy over 2 billion years ago.

Further modeling work allowed them to date the merger to about 2 billion years ago, and to reconstruct some basic details of that long-dead galaxy.

Scientists have been aware for some time that a large galaxy like Andromeda probably ate smaller galaxies around it; that's where the halo of stars surrounding Andromeda comes from. However, there was actually no means to find how many galaxies it had devoured throughout its existence, nor how voracious its appetite might have been. M32 is a weirdo. And also a separate compact galaxy M32. "We realized we could use this information of Andromeda's outer stellar halo to infer the properties of the largest of these shredded galaxies", said lead author D'Souza, a postdoctoral researcher at U-M.

Researchers have discovered the scattered traces of a "disrupted galaxy" that was once 20 times larger than any other galaxy the Milky Way has merged with.

It was generally believed that the size of Andromeda was due to it swallowing up many little galaxies but the latest research shows that that bulk of starts is actually a minor satellite galaxy of Andromeda known as M32.

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"Astronomers have been studying the Local Group [of galaxies]-the Milky Way, Andromeda, and their companions-for so long", according to Bell. And considering that Andromeda is now on a collision course with the Milky Way, which will lead to a merger between the two galaxies in about 4 billion years, the more we know about mergers, the better. The stars in Andromeda's halo are all roughly 2 billion years old, as are about one fifth of the stars in Andromeda proper, suggesting a massive galactic collision and burst of star-formation activity in the past.

It turns out the neighbor did it: the Milky Way's closest and largest galactic neighbor, Andromeda. D'Souza and Bell think that an odd satellite galaxy of Andromeda called M32 is the lost galaxy's corpse - the bones left behind after the big, nasty spiral munched off M32p's meat. A new computer simulation revealed that the outer faint halo of stars around Andromeda were largely contributed by one large galaxy that had been shredded apart. But in the Local Group, a galaxy group comprising the Milky Way and more than 54 other galaxies, M32p would have been the third largest galaxy behind Andromeda and the Milky Way.

But it doesn't end there, as the team suggests that the remaining M32 is the indestructible centre of the original sibling galaxy. But Andromeda and its spiral survived.

IAC researcher Jonay González Hernández said: 'Theory predicts that these stars could form just after, and using material from, the first supernovae, whose progenitors were the first massive stars in the Galaxy'.

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