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Mergers Create Disk Galaxies

Observations from several radio telescopes reveal that, when two galaxies merge, their progeny often have gaseous disks — a hypothesis that before now didn’t have solid observational evidence.When it comes to merging galaxies, a crash doesn’t always create a mess. For a long time, astronomers thought it did. Conventional wisdom (based on computer simulations from the 1970s) said that when two big disk-shaped galaxies merged, they’d create a big elliptical, a fairly featureless spheroid of stars.

But about a decade ago, new-and-improved simulations by several teams suggested that, if the disk galaxies have a lot of gas, the object their merger creates will also be a disk galaxy, with spiral arms or maybe even a bar in the center.

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