our cannibal galaxy

Astronomers from the University of Massachusetts and the University of Virginia announced last week that they have proof that the Milky Way is a cannibal, gobbling up the tiny Sagittarius galaxy. The researchers have mapped the full extent of Sagittarius and have shown in detail how it interacts with our much more massive galaxy. The study, which will appear in the Dec. 20 Astrophysical Journal, shows the smaller galaxy’s debris passing through and wrapping around the Milky Way. Study author Steven Majewski of the University of Virginia stated in a press release: “Both stars and star clusters now in the outer part of the Milky Way have been ‘stolen’ from Sagittarius as the gravitational force of the Milky Way nibbled away at its dwarf companion. This one vivid example shows that the Milky Way grows by eating its smaller neighbors.” He added: “It’s clear who’s the bully in the interaction.”

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 9/30/2003.
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