Skywatch

  • March 30, 2006

    Episode 29: Crystal Clouds in Galaxy Centers

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    When galaxies merge, gemstone-like crystals form in the entangled hearts. Galaxy collisions trigger huge amounts of star formation. Some of the stars are extremely massive and burn through their fuel quickly, eventually exploding as supernovae. The supernovae spew out silicate material. The dust and crystals envelope the nuclei of the galaxies for a short time before the crystals are destroyed by radiation. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope observed 77 galaxies in the process of merging. These galaxies are distributed across the sky and located at a variety of distances, from 240 million light years to 5.9 billion light years away. Twenty-one of the galaxies showed these crystal cocoons around their centers.