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No. 12: Fall 1980

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Little big bangs!

The photographic enhancement of plates taken by the UK Schmidt and Anglo-Australian telescopes has revealed that several normal elliptical galaxies are surrounded by shell-like structures. D.F. Malin and D. Carter report that these envelopes are vast -- up to 180 kiloparsecs in diameter. Furthermore, some galaxies are wrapped in a series of thin shells. Malin and Carter believe that the colossal shells are really thin layers of stars either created by a powerful shock wave during galaxy formation or comprised of a debris layer of old stars blown out of the galaxy during some cataclysmic event.

(Malin, David F., and Carter, David; "Giant Shells around Normal Elliptical Galaxies," Nature, 285:643, 1980.)

Comment. This article typifies the emergence of "catastrophic astronomy" which contrasts sharply with the older vision of a leisurely evolution of stars and galaxies.

Elliptical galaxy surrounded by shell-like structures

From Science Frontiers #12, Fall 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss