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A painting of two galaxies merging. Galaxy mergers can occur when two (or more) galaxies collide. They are the most violent type of galaxy interaction. Although galaxy mergers do not involve stars or star systems actually colliding, due to the vast distances between stars in most circumstances, the gravitational interactions between galaxies and the friction between the gas and dust have major effects on the galaxies involved. The exact effects of such mergers depend on a wide variety of parameters such as collision angles, speeds, and relative size/composition, and are currently an extremely active area of research. Galaxy mergers are important because the merger rate is fundamental measurement of galaxy evolution. The merger rate also provides astronomers with clues about how galaxies bulked up over time.
April 30th, 2012
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