A few ago I noted an odd paper in the latest issue of Nature which reported that the Andromeda galaxy has a whole bunch of dwarf galaxies that orbit it in the same plane, like they were painted on one large and very flat disc. And also, by the way, the Milky Way’s flattened plane aligns edge-to-edge with that disc. Therefore in a couple of billion years our galaxies will collide like a couple of circular saw blades meeting each other edge on. How? Why? Nobody knows. Maybe the guys who wrote the simulation software that we call our universe got behind schedule and had to cut some corners.
If that were not odd enough, now we find out that the guy who reported this profoundly unexpected discovery in the most prestigious of all science journals is all of fifteen. He worked with a team of astronomers, including his dad, but everyone agrees that Neil Ibata wrote the key software and made sense out of the very weird result. It’s like if Doogie Howser discovered that the human genetic code is written in Basque.
Correction! Those dwarf galaxies all orbit in a very thin plane that is about perpendicular to Andromeda itself. The Milky way is just-just in line with that plane of dwarf galaxies, so when we run into each other it will be more like a circular saw hitting another circular blade sideways, but with a bunch of little circular saws hitting it edge-on first. That sounds much less dramatic.