Nearby Galaxy Will Crash Into the Milky Way, Astrophysicists Say

Friday, 04 January 2019 - 10:21AM
Astrophysics
Friday, 04 January 2019 - 10:21AM
Nearby Galaxy Will Crash Into the Milky Way, Astrophysicists Say
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NASA/CXC/SAO/STScI/JPL-Caltech
Astrophysicists at Durham University have some bad news for anyone who cares about the distant future of this galaxy. Based on the outcome of computer simulations, the scientists say that a nearby galaxy may someday change speed and direction and crash into the Milky Way, sending our planet, the Solar System, and everything else on a one way trip into the deep.

Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a satellite galaxy that is around 163,000 light years away from the Milky Way. While it is currently moving in the opposite direction at around 250 miles per second, the scientists argue in a report published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that 2.5 billion years from now, LMC will shift into reverse and head straight for us. "The whole of the Milky Way will be shaken and the entire solar system could be ejected into outer space," Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham director Carlos Frenk told The Guardian. "If that happens, I don't see how our descendants, if we have any, will be able to withstand it."



The collision is by no means great news, but it could absolutely be worse. Because of the galaxy's relatively low mass, researchers say that while it will wreck shop, it will at least leave the foundation and not salt the Earth so that nothing grows again. That kind of catastrophic event comes later. "The LMC is big but it won't completely destroy our galaxy," said Frenk. "It'll produce these amazing fireworks, but it doesn't have the mass to create a huge disturbance." A galaxy that does have the mass is named Andromeda, and previous research has given a timeline of around 4 billion years until it (at 5 times the mass of LMC) decimates whatever is left of the Milky Way. "The collision with Andromeda really will be armageddon. That really will be the end of the Milky Way as we know it," Frenk added.

On the bright side, if LMC does hit us first, it will buy our descendants "a couple of billion years" before total annihilation. Glass half full, right?
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