Stryding through the stars

By Phil Plait | July 7, 2008 12:02 pm

NGC 5907, from the IACThis image to the left is one of the truly most outstanding pictures I have seen of the sky. It shows the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 5907, and it’s surrounding by several loops of stars, the leftover remains of another galaxy eaten by NGC 5907.

I found this picture through a link from Pamela Gay’s Star Stryder blog. She wrote an outstanding essay on galactic mergers, well worth a read. In fact, I’ll try to link to it whenever I talk about mergers here on BA, because she covers a lot of ground and describes it very well (and not just because she links to my book).

In fact, if you don’t have Pamela’s blog on your reading list, you’re missing out. When I get my sidebar here straightened out, count on me having her listed in my blogroll. She’s a good friend, and a good writer.


Comments (19)

  1. Pamela is also an awesome Podcaster!
    Her and Fraser Cain team up weekly on AstronmyCast –

  2. Andy Beaton is a really cool place to actually look for merging galaxies, using data from (I believe) the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It seems human brains are better at sorting these things than any current bit of software.

  3. Chip

    I love that picture!

  4. That picture is great. And it reminds me of Back To The Future II, where the DeLorean is struck by lightning – it leaves a couple of loop-shaped trails in the sky!

  5. A very suggestive image about colliding galaxies. We can have an idea from that image about the relationships between Milky Way and Sag DEG (our nearest galaxy). It’s a pity that Sag DEG has been tainted by ludicrous statements about the origin of our Sun, but if we manage after all to become a “galactic civilization” in the next millennia, we must not forget that galactic systems are even more dynamic than star systems.

  6. Several years ago, my husband and I participated in one of Kitt Peak’s “Advanced Observer Programs” and NGC5907 is one of the galaxies we imaged. Our image is not nearly as cool and beautiful as this one, though. We actually weren’t able to finish the image because a storm came through and stuck around long enough for the sun to come up. Even still NGC5907 is kind of special to me. :)

  7. Pop

    Imagine, if you will, standing on a planet orbiting a star in one of the smoke-like rings and looking at NGC5907. What a nightly vision that would be. Even with unaided eye it would fill a significant portion of the sky. Lucky bastards living on that planet, but lucky us to have a pic like this.

  8. madge

    @ Andy Beaton
    Hail and well met fellow Galaxy Zoo-er! :)

  9. Phil Evans

    I agree with you about Pamela’s blog and it’s a good idea to link to her essay but wny not also not link to the original photographer’s site and give him his due.
    It was taken by an amateur, R Jay Gabany, during a pro-am collaboration in 06. Check out Jay’s website
    You just can’t fail to be impressed with his ability.
    Phil Evans

  10. NZer

    NUMEROLOGY 100% Accurate (??) Ad on top of your new page doesn’t quite send the right message about this new alliance does it?

  11. madge

    Made me LOL too! Find out why she isn’t like other astrologers! I’m betting she is JUST like EVERY other astrologer out there. 100% full of it! :)

  12. Phil Evans: I linked to the announcement of the scientific paper which links to his original. I probably should have included a link to the original too. Noted.

  13. Travis

    Maybe this is a silly question, but why is it with some of the stars imaged, that there is dark halo around them (mainly the orange-ish star near the middle bottom of the picture)?

  14. Thanks for linking to Pamela’s blog! I have her & you on my bookmark bar. That was a frakin’ great post of hers. We of the Milky Way have our own tidal tails too, IIRC.
    Richard Drumm the Astronomy Bum

  15. What a great image this is. It reminds me of a Basic program that I copied out of Astronomy Magazine around 20 years ago and then heavily modified which taught me that galaxies are very much 3-dimensional creatures and that some structures that you see as a disk thinking of it as being face on is really a a warped disk tilted at some unusual angle to your view.

    The press release you link to is very informative but it does something that bugs me when I see it. It said: “…and formed from the destruction of one of its dwarf satellite galaxies at least four thousand million years ago.” Why couldn’t they just say it was four billion years ago? You might as well say it happened “twenty thousand two hundred thousand years ago….” or “fifty eighty million years ago”….


  16. The use of “thousand million” may have been natural caution. I’m not sure what “billion” means in Spain (which is where it was published, evidently), but although we have Krispy Kremes and MacDonalds in the UK now, there are still a few people here (mainly older people) who hear “billion” and think “million million”. In fact, I did when I was at school in the early 1970s. We only adopted the “American billion” fairly recently, and that was mainly due to the fact that it is used so often in global news reports about economies.

    Any Spanish readers who can comment on this?

  17. jokergirl

    It’s also currently my desktop background. (I think it was on APOD a while ago)
    One of the best pictures out there.



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