A long time ago in two galaxies far, far away, there was quite the kerfuffle. New research suggests that about 200 million years ago, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way located 160,000 lightyears from Earth, got into an intergalactic altercation with its younger sibling, the Small Magellanic Cloud. But the best part is what came after.
The large Magellanic Cloud. Image: ESA/NASA/Hubble
Christian Moni Bidin and his team of researchers at the Catholic University of the North in Antofagasta, Chile are studying one possible aftermath of the scuffle. The group believes a ring of six young stars it found at the edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud, similar to the bright blue stars pictured above, were probably born after the the Small Magellanic Cloud smashed into it. Galaxy collisions happen when gravity pulls the two star-filled masses toward each other. Bidin and his team believe that in this case, after the galaxies collided, their gas and dust compressed, giving birth to the six new stars. The team's work has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Oddly enough, five of the six stars are located among much older stars. Though the stars are notably younger than the possible collision that created them — between 10 and 50 million years old — Bidin says this doesn't disprove the group's findings.
Image credit: NASA
"It was surprising," Bidin told New Scientist. "There was no indication of recent star formation in this region."
The team says it will be eagerly pursuing more stars that could have come out of the intergalactic rumpus.
"We studied the tip of the iceberg," he said. "There could be many fainter stars."