Look at this image created by NASA. It shows Earth’s night sky in 3.75 billion years, with the Milky Way on a head-on collision with Andromeda, our neighbouring galaxy. The destruction of our galaxy as we know it will be so beautiful.
We knew that Andromeda and the Milky Way were going to collide, but scientists thought it was only going to be a timid encounter, brushing by one another. According to Sangmo Tony Sohn, from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), “after nearly a century of speculation about the future destiny of Andromeda and our Milky Way, we at last have a clear picture of how events will unfold over the coming billions of years.”
Thanks to new data from the Hubble Space Telescope, we now know for sure that it will be a “titanic head-on collision” that will create a completely new galaxy. The new computer simulations show that the galactic crash will happen four billion years from now. STScI’s Roeland van der Marel says that their “findings are statistically consistent with a head-on collision between the Andromeda galaxy and our Milky Way galaxy.”
How would it happen?
In this scenario, we are the baseball batter and Andromeda is the baseball, approaching 2000 times faster than the Milky Way’s speed. When it happens, it will be a total “smash-up,” according to NASA. Star systems will lose their bearings, changing orbits all around. Our own solar system will “probably be tossed much farther from the galactic core than it is today”.
But there’s nothing to fear: the stars within the Milky Way and Andromeda are so far apart between each other than the possibility of them colliding is almost nil. [Hubble via NASA]