Cosmic Smashup: Scientist Predict Galaxy Merger….In 4 Billion Years
Astronomers with NASA have announced that the Milky Way galaxy is on a steady collision course with Andromeda, the closest galaxy to us, which has been steadily moving toward us for millions of years.
Don’t worry though, because the “cosmic smashup” won’t happen for another four billion years, according to Yahoo News. Andromeda is the same size as the Milky Way, and about the same age as well, 10 billion years old.
Roeland van der Marel, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, told reporters Thursday that:
“We do know of other galaxies in the local universe around us that are in the process of colliding and merging. However, what makes the future merger of theAndromeda galaxy and the Milky Way so special is that it will happen to us.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Earth and sun should easily survive the collision, which will occur at a rate of 1.2 million miles per hour. It will, however, completely change our view in the night sky. Van der Marel went on to say that:
“This is pretty violent as things go in the universe. It’s like a bad car crash in galaxy-land.”
MSNBC reports that John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, and also a former astronaut who flew on three space shuttle missions to repair the Hubble telescope, stated:
“What’s really exciting about the current measurements is, it’s not about historical astronomy; it’s not about looking back in time, understanding the expansion of the universe. It’s looking forward in time, which is another very human story. We like to know about our past — where did we come from? We very much like to know where we’re going.”
Van der Marel and his colleagues at the Hubble telescope expect the merger between Andromeda and the Milky Way to take about 2 billion years.