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White Dwarf Galaxies Orbit Andromeda
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01/04/2013 08:46 AM
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Astronomers have discovered a group of dwarf galaxies moving in unison near the Andromeda Galaxy around the host known as Messier 31 using the MegaCam on the Canada-France-Hawaii and W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Analogous to the planets of our own Solar System, the structure of these small galaxies – nearly half that orbit Andromeda – lies in a plane. What is truly surprising to the scientists, however, is that they orbit the Andromeda galaxy en masse. This presents a serious challenge to the currently held theories for the formation and evolution of all galaxies.
While Persian astronomers first catalogued the Andromeda galaxy over 1,000 years ago, only in the last five years have we studied in exquisite detail the most distant suburbs of the Andromeda galaxy. Scientists have examined this detail via the Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey (PAndAS), which was active between 2008 and 2011, using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and measured with the Keck Observatory, providing our first panoramic view of our closest large companion in the cosmos.
The study, published in a recent issue of Nature, is the result of many years of effort by an international team of astronomers who have discovered a large number of satellite galaxies, and developed new techniques to measure their distances. The team has also used the Keck Observatory to measure their radial velocities, or Doppler shifts – the speed of the galaxy relative to the Sun. Previous studies hinted at the existence of this structure, however, the new study has demonstrated its existence to a high level of statistical confidence (99.998%).
Scientists have long known that large galaxies like the Milky Way or Andromeda are orbited by an entourage of smaller galaxies that are individually anywhere from ten to hundreds of thousands of times fainter than their hosts. These systems were previously thought to trace a path around the larger galaxy independent of every other dwarf galaxy.
Almost 30 dwarf galaxies orbit the Andromeda galaxy in this regular, solar system-like plane, the study reveals. The scientists expected that these smaller galaxies should be buzzing around randomly, like bees around a hive.
LINK: [link to www.redorbit.com]
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