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When Galaxies Collide

“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other,” is the first sentence of E E ‘Doc’ Smith‘s Triplanetary, the first in his Lensman series. I read it at an impressionable young age and that sentence has stuck with me ever since, probably because the concept struck my young mind as awesome. (Awesome in the British sense and not as our USian cousins use the term, almost as a throwaway.)

Smith wasn’t the greatest stylist (he wasn’t a stylist at all) and his characterisation was rudimentary but he more or less invented space opera. About the only things I can remember about the Lensman series is that first sentence and the frequently repeated call sign (no doubt modelled on William Joyce as “Lord Haw-Haw“) “This is Helmuth, speaking for Boskone.”

Anyway, this, from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for 23/5/18, is a picture of two galaxies (NGC 4038 and NGC 4039) colliding; or, rather, passing through each other, not two thousand million years ago but for the last 100 million at least.

NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 Colliding

The two galaxies are known as the antennae. A wider angle (which was featured on APOD on 29/4/2011) shows why.

The Antennae

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