Images of a Collision
aAlthough the computer simulations of galactic aencounters appear explosive, none of the stars aactually meet. Stars are so small compared to the adistances in between them, that the chance of a ahead-on collision between suns is practically nil.
aBut they don't escape unscathed. As they fly by, atheir combined masses throw up a huge agravitational "tide." "It both squishes and stretches aat the same time," says astrophysicist John aDubinski of the University of Toronto. "The amaterial at the edges of the galaxies flies off like a aslingshot." In a mere 100 million years, what was aonce a smooth disc ends up looking like a spinning alawn sprinkler.
Joshua Barnes, a professor of astronomy at theaUniversity of Hawaii, generated the computer codeato create the simulation shown here. You can find aother images of galactic encounters on his personal web site.