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Galaxies are the building blocks of the Universe: standing like islands in space, each is made up of many hundreds of millions of stars in which the chemical elements are made, around which planets form, and where on at least one of those planets intelligent life has emerged. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is just one of several hundred million other galaxies that we can w observe through our telescopes. Yet it was only in the 1920s that we realised that there is more to the Universe than the Milky Way, and that there were in fact other 'islands' out there. In many ways, modern astromy began with this discovery, and the story of galaxies is therefore the story of modern astromy. Since then, many exciting discoveries have been made about our own galaxy and about those beyond: how a supermassive black hole lurks at the centre of every galaxy, for example, how ermous forces are released when galaxies collide, how distant galaxies provide a window on the early Universe, and what the formation of young galaxies can tell us about the mysteries of Cold Dark Matter. In this Very Short Introduction, rewned science writer John Gribbin describes the extraordinary things that astromers are learning about galaxies, and explains how this can shed light on the origins and structure of the Universe. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
John Gribbin has a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Cambridge and is one of the best-known current popular science writers. His many books include the acclaimed The Universe: A Biography, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat, and Science: A History. He has written for all the UK broadsheet newspapers, regularly contributes to radio and television documentaries and debates, and also writes science fiction novels. He formerly worked for Nature and New Scientist, and is presently a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.