So much of our universe is stunningly beautiful. Let’s spend a little time on something that isn’t, and follow the journey from stunning spiral galaxies to plain old giant ellipticals.
The more we know the more certain we become. But do we come closer to the truth? We’d all like to believe we do, but that may not be the case. There’s a danger to that certainty. We can read the narrative we want into data, strengthening our resolve and isolating us from the arguments of others.
With the death of Vera Rubin, we retrace the steps on her most important discovery. From watching the speed of stars and gas orbiting a galaxy she found a mysterious quirk in the results, and followed it to find inescapable evidence that led to the discovery of invisible and mysterious matter, 5 times more massive than all other matter in the Universe.
“…and other lesson’s I learned when I was a spiral galaxy” — Our ideas of what happens to galaxies when they crash into each other comes mostly from simulations. But what if those results aren’t as trustworthy as we think? By watching a galaxy merger in the highest detail we can, we see that collisions may not be as destructive as we thought, and you just might survive a head-long crash into another galaxy.
As smaller galaxies collide with our own they’re slowly torn apart. By watching how they spread across the night’s sky we can infer an incredible amount about the shape of the galaxy and the nature of dark matter.