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The Milky Way ate another galaxy, and we can still see the undigested bits

6 Nov 2018, 14:00 UTC
The Milky Way ate another galaxy, and we can still see the undigested bits ESA (artist’s impression and composition); Koppelman, Villalobos and Helmi (simulation); NASA/ESA/Hubble (galaxy image), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Our Milky Way galaxy grows by eating other galaxies.

We know this for many reasons. For one, we can see other galaxies colliding and merging all over the sky. For another, we can track stars on our galaxy that were once part of another galaxy, but were absorbed into our own. These are usually relatively recent events involving a much smaller galaxy.

But a new result changes that. By mapping huge numbers of stars in the galaxy, astronomers have found compelling evidence that the Milky Way ate a galaxy that was, at the time, about a quarter its size. And that time was a staggering ten billion years ago.

Yeah, this is very cool.

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