Neighbor Galaxies May Have Brushed Closely, Astronomers Find
Two of our Milky Way's neighbor galaxies may have had a close encounter billions of years ago, recent studies with the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) indicate. The new observations confirm a disputed 2004 discovery of hydrogen gas streaming between the giant Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, and the Triangulum Galaxy, or M33. "The properties of this gas indicate that these two galaxies may have passed close together in the distant past," said Jay Lockman, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). "Studying what may be a gaseous link between the two can give us a new key to understanding the evolution of both galaxies," he added. The two galaxies, about 2.6 and 3 million light-years, respectively, from Earth, are members of the Local Group of galaxies that includes our own Milky Way and about 30 others.
Image credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF