By T. Fliessbach
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Collisions between these far-flung islands seem very unlikely. In part this impression is a cosmic accident. Roughly half of all galaxies are located in clusters of galaxies where the distance between galaxies is much less than outside of such clusters. The Milky Way is located some distance from the nearest large cluster, located in the constellation Virgo. It is interesting to speculate that if the Milky Way was located within the Virgo cluster, then the island universe view of galaxies might not have developed.
If a ring wave had been started in our galaxy at the beginning of the age of the dinosaurs, it would still be moving through the outer disk. However, in both cases natural oscillations are excited in the systems by an abrupt disturbance, despite the vast difference in scales. Another common analogy that astronomers use is that the ring waves are like the waves excited by a stone dropped in a pond. Again, the physical details are very different. In the water, molecules oscillate up and down in the wave, perpendicular to the surface of the pond, while in the ring wave stars oscillate in and out within the disk.
All of these questions involve complexities well beyond the scope of this book and are subjects of very active research. The matter distribution, shape and orbit structure of the visible components of galaxies are much more accessible to direct observation, though there are often limitations of instrument sensitivity and resolution to consider. In brief, the density of stars in disks and bulges fall off nearly exponentially, while the gas density in disks generally falls off more slowly with distance from the center.
Allgemeine Relativitatstheorie by T. Fliessbach