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Galaxies Divide Sharply Along Color Lines

When most people look at the night sky, they see lots of twinkling white spots. In fact, stars come in a variety of colors, from red to blue. And like soccer teams at a tournament, galaxies seem to organize themselves by hue. Astronomers now report that old, red galaxies clump together much more tightly than do young, blue ones. And there doesn't seem to be any middle ground. The astronomers, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It's the largest survey of galaxies ever done, with about 50 million galaxies already viewed. The Sloan survey, which uses a telescope in New Mexico, is also unique because it sorts galaxies by color. Old galaxies look red because old, cooler stars give off mostly red light. Young galaxies are full of hot stars that formed more recently and still give off bluish light. After analyzing 2 million galaxies, the researchers noticed two distinct types of galaxy clumping: very tight or very loose, based on age and color. The new finding about galaxy distribution and color might help explain some things about what happens to galaxies as they get older. It might also provide hints about dark matter—mysterious stuff that may fill the Universe, according to some astronomers, even though no one has ever seen it.—E. Sohn

Galaxies Divide Sharply Along Color Lines
Galaxies Divide Sharply Along Color Lines

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