An image of two colliding galaxies shows the tragic future of the Milky Way

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Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 12 August 2022, at 11:18 am Los Angeles time

A new image provided by the Gemini North telescope shows two colliding galaxies that will eventually merge. Is a fate that our galaxy, the Milky Way, may also have.

The Gemini North telescope, located atop Maunakea in Hawaii, observed the interacting spiral galaxies at about 60 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo.

The galaxy pair NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, also known as butterfly galaxies, began to collide as gravity pulls them together. In 500 million years, the two cosmic systems will complete the merger to form a single elliptical galaxy.

At this early stage, the two galactic centers are 20,000 years apart light from each other, and each galaxy maintained its spiral shape. As galaxies become more entangled, gravitational forces will lead to several intense star formation events. The original structures of galaxies will change and distort.

In time, the galactic centers will dance around each other in circles that are getting smaller and smaller. This tight looping dance will attract streams of gas and stars, mixing the two galaxies into something resembling a sphere.

Over millions of years, this galactic tangle will consume or disperse the gas and dust needed to trigger the birth of stars, causing star formation to slow down and eventually cease this process.

The study of galactic collisions and computer modeling provided astronomers with more evidence that spiral galaxy mergers create elliptical galaxies.

A similar galactic merger will unfold when the Milky Way eventually collides with the Andromeda galaxy, the largest and our closest galactic neighbor. NASA astronomers used the data from the Hubble telescope in 2012 to predict when a head-on collision between the two galaxies. Estimates show that the event it will happen in about 4-5 billion years.

At this time, a massive halo surrounding the Andromeda galaxy hits the Milky Way galaxy's halo, according to data-driven research of the Hubble Space Telescope, published in 2020. NASA scientists say it is unlikely that our solar system to be destroyed when the Milky Way and Andromeda will collide, but the sun could be thrown into a new region of the galaxy.

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