Yes, we realize it’s been playing on your mind, you’ve been fretting over it and we’ve had meeting after meeting at our end, working out how best to break it to you. Sorry but we just have to come out and say it:
Thirteen dwarf galaxies are playing a cosmic-scale game of Ring Around Andromeda, forming an enormous structure astronomers have never seen before and are hard-pressed to explain with current theories of how galaxies form and evolve.
Now we don’t want to frighten you, we hope you won’t go off and slash your wrists but it’s so, we’re afraid – it’s happening.
The team discovering the rings – led by Rodrigo Ibata of the Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory in France and Geraint Lewis at the University of Sydney in Australia – identified 27 dwarf galaxies in all orbiting Andromeda, also called M31. Thirteen of the dwarf galaxies shared a common orbital plane around Andromeda, and one was offset from the plane of M31′s spiral arms by a significant degree.
Hard to come to terms with, we know. It gets worse:
Andromeda and the Milky Way, the two most massive galaxies in the group, appear to be headed for a collision in about 4.5 billion years. The two galaxies are but 2.5 million light-years away and closing.
There it is. Only thing we can do is send the crew to explore it and maybe try to hold back the forces of dark energy. The mission is in safe hands with the battleship Andromeda – here she is:
We’ll get back to you on it.
[Incidentally, she married that guy in real life. Fancy being married to a battleship.]