The Hubble picture of ARP 194 made me wonder about what actually happens when galaxies collide, merge or what would the best word be? We've seen them seemingly pass through each other, being left with much distortion. And I've read that collisions of stars would be rare, because there are still light years of empty space between them. But statistically, billions of stars within dozens of light years ought to yield quite a few collisions. Do we have any idea how many, or what actually happens when stars collide?
(Let's assume for now that the black holes go their own ways.)
I dont believe there is any direct observational evidence of what happens when stars collide, but the blue straggler theory seems to be gaining support as a possible result of stars getting together.
Statistically the chances of two stars hittng each other during a galactic encounter are exceptionally low, but as the old saying goes. Never say never. Our chances of obseving such an encounter with any detail would be infantesimal
No seriously though, MAPNUT, there are a few threads here, which have delved into this area.
In fact I filed (so safely, i don't know where) a link, from one of the posts on a particular thread, recently, which has a computer generated sequence of such phenomenal cosmic events. I can't for the life of me, remember who provided that link.
You could do BAUT search to take you there. I'll try locate it for you, unless some one kinder and faster, here, beats me to it. I wouldn't be surprised.
statistically, billions of stars within dozens of light years ought to yield quite a few collisions.
Yep, however much I meditate on the emptiness of space within a galaxy I still struggle to imagine a field of a 100 billion stars merging with another without the odd bump.
Perhaps the key is to recall how big and voluminous galaxies are: if one were a plate in front of you another might be a plate on just the other side of the room (compare with stars where the other plate would be in the next county).