When you take the time to think about it, space is an amazing, awe-inspiring, mind-bending thing.
As we look up to the skies, we’re becoming familiar with the planets and stars that form our galaxy. And to compound that overwhelming sense of being utterly insignificant, we now believe ours is just one of 100 billion galaxies that are said to exist.
Now it turns out that half of the atoms around you (including those that make up, well, you) aren’t even from the world as we know it – they actually belong to other galaxies.
According to research conducted by scientists Claude-Andre Faucher-Giguere and Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, galactic winds have ferried in about 50% of the earth’s matter present today.
“We did not realise how much of the mass in today’s Milky Way-like galaxies was actually ‘stolen’ from the winds of other galaxies,” says author Faucher-Giguère, from Northwestern University in Illinois.
According to the scientists, the Milky Way receives its matter from the nearby small and large Magellanic clouds, which are two dwarf galaxies between 160,000 and 200,000 light years away.
Over a galaxy’s lifetime, it will swap matter continuously with its neighbours, and the journey between one galaxy and another could take anywhere from several hundred million to 2 billion years, he says.
“We assumed that the winds were confined to the galaxies they came from – that they could recycle by falling back onto the galaxy that ejected them, but not transfer much mass from one galaxy to another,” says Faucher-Giguère.
Of course, Twitter has gotten swept up in the fervour, with some mere humans simply not being able to handle it.
Just remember team: if the world is grinding your gears, you are literally a star.
Images: Rex Features