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Andromeda galaxy and Milky Way on collision course

The danger of the Solar System or any other star being destroyed in the collision is small but the gravitational disturbance can shift the location of sun to the outer fringes of the new galaxy.

Our very own Milky Way is headed for a major collision with the next-door Andromeda galaxy, NASA astronomers in Baltimore said Thursday.

The predictions have come from the Hubble Space Telescope which has observed sections of the galaxy over a five- to seven-year period.

The Andromeda galaxy that is hurtling towards us at 250,000 miles per hour through space is still 2.5 million light years away, hence the pile-up is not expected for another 4 billion years, the astronomers said.

It will take another two billion years of cosmic reorganization before they appear like a single entity. Astronomers believe a third, smaller galaxy called the Triangulum will also be a part of the fray,

"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," said Sangmo Tony Sohn of the institute based in Baltimore, Maryland in a statement.

Assuming that human beings would still be around billions of years in the future to look upwards, the night sky from the earth should appear different with Andromeda suddenly dominating.

Cosmic reorganization
The danger of the Solar System or any other star being destroyed in the collision is small but the gravitational disturbance can shift the location of sun to the outer fringes of the new galaxy.

Assuming that human beings would still be around billions of years in the future to look upwards, the night sky from the earth should appear different with Andromeda suddenly dominating.

Lead researcher Roeland van der Marel from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore stated,"Today, the Andromeda Galaxy appears to us on the sky as a small fuzzy object that was first seen by ancient astronomers more than one thousand years ago."

"Few things fascinate humans more than to know what our cosmic destiny and future fate will be. The fact that we can predict that this small fuzzy object will one day come to engulf and enshroud our Sun and Solar System is a truly remarkable and fascinating finding."

Hubble results strengthen earlier findings
It has long been suspected that Andromeda or M31 was moving toward the Milky Way. However, astronomers were uncertain whether the galaxies would slam or pass each other by as they were unable to measure Andromeda's sideways motion in the sky.

With computer stimulations of Andromeda's sideways motion, the NASA Hubble Space Telescope team is now certain that the two will crash.

Rosemary Wyse, professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University stated, "We've known for some time that galaxies do evolve by snacking on small satellite galaxies."

"The importance of this research is that the appetite of both the Milky Way and M31 has not been satisfied and they are going to end up devouring each other. When they do so they'll join the pantheon of large spiral galaxies."

The observations of the merger are to be reported in a forthcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.