An international team of astronomers from France, Italy, the UK and Australia has found a previously unknown galaxy colliding with our own Milky Way. This newly-discovered galaxy takes the record for the nearest galaxy to the centre of the Milky Way.
The tidal forces of the Milky Way slowly pull apart the Canis Major dwarf galaxy (shown here in red). The stars ripped off in this fashion, surround the galaxy in a vast ring.
Called the Canis Major dwarf galaxy after the constellation in which it lies, it is about 25000 light years away from the solar system and 42000 light years from the centre of the Milky Way. This is closer than the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, discovered in 1994, which is also colliding with the Milky Way. The discovery shows that the Milky Way is building up its own disk by absorbing small satellite galaxies. The research is to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society within the next few weeks.
The discovery of the Canis Major dwarf was made possible by a recent survey of the sky in infrared light (the Two-Micron All Sky Survey or "2MASS"), which has allowed astronomers to look beyond the clouds of dust in the disk of the Milky Way. Until now, the dwarf galaxy lay undetected behind the dense disk. "Its like putting on infrared night-vision goggles," says team-member Dr Rodrigo Ibata of Strasbourg Observatory. "We are now able to study a part of the Milky Way that has been previously out of sight".
Dr Rodrigo Ibata | alfa
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