Milky Way Will Be Devoured By Neighboring Andromeda Galaxy In Future, Researchers Say

Tara West - Author

Aug. 23 2017, Updated 4:40 a.m. ET

According to a team of astronomers, Andromeda Galaxy will consume our Milky Way Galaxy approximately five billion years from now.

According to RedOrbit, when galaxies grow too massive to continue making their own stars, they begin cannibalizing other nearby galaxies. Dr. Aaron Robotham, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), and his associates looked at over 22,000 galaxies and found that the most massive galaxies were far less efficient at forming stars than their smaller counterparts.

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Once their star-forming capabilities are lost, the galaxy still has the desire to grow. Instead of forming their own stars to expand, the large galaxy will begin to consume surrounding smaller galaxies. Experts from the University of Western Australia and an international team of colleagues reported this week in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that one such galaxy is the Andromeda Galaxy.

The Milky Way has actually cannibalized smaller galaxies in the past. It has been a long time since the Milky Way has merged with another large galaxy, but astronomers note that you can still see remnants of all the old galaxies we’ve cannibalized. However, the Milky Way will do a little more consuming of its own before the Andromeda Galaxy has a chance to take a bite at it.

Dr. Robotham discussed the consuming of galaxies by the Milky Way in an ICRAR statement.

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“We’re also going to eat two nearby dwarf galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, in about four billion years.”

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It is believed that Milky Way galaxy will grow bigger in nearly four billion years by consuming two dwarf galaxies nearby- the Large and the Small Magellanic Clouds. After the Milky Way does its consuming, the Andromeda Galaxy will then eat up the Milky Way, because it is more massive even after the Milky Way consumers its nearby smaller galaxies.

Scientists do point out that the process takes billions of years. Therefore, it will be around four billion years before the Milky Way begins consuming its neighbors, and another billion years after that before it comes into contact with the massive Andromeda Galaxy.

Astronomers believe that the process of larger galaxies consuming smaller galaxies will keep happening until a few very large galaxies remain in the universe. They said the process will take a long time to happen, and is billions of years in our future.


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