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What caused galaxies to start spinning?

  1. Feb 13, 2012 #1
    If I take a big, uniform blob of gas that is not spinning, and mark its limit as the limit of a system, then even if that big blob of gas coalesces to make a galaxy, it will not start spinning by itself: its own gravity is an internal force, and conservation of angular momentum says I need an external force to add angular momentum to the system.

    As galaxies spin, either:
    (a) my big blob of gas was already spinning before it started to become a galaxy, or
    (b) there was some external torque applied to my system

    So, what's the best explanation as to why galaxies spin?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2012 #2


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    A quasi uniform gas cloud with zero total angular momentum, can form many spinning galaxies while preserving zero total angular momentum. They spin around different axes in different directions.
    It's (a). The gas that later forms a single galaxy already has non zero total angular momentum. The closer it gets together, the higher the angular velocity becomes.
  4. Feb 13, 2012 #3

    Ah, I see. So there's no such thing in reality as a uniform blob of gas with perfectly zero angular momentum relative to its center of mass. It will have some variations in velocity, and these variations create a non-zero angular momentum. The bigger the blob, the bigger the angular momentum generated by these irregularities.

    Now that you explained, it seems obvious to me - the smallest disturbance will get the thing to spin as it contracts.

    Thanks for the explanation! :smile:
  5. Feb 21, 2012 #4


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    It is statistically unlikely. And, event there was one, then it would not form a Galaxy, just collapse radially into a BH. So you never see those non-rotating Galaxies.
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