It’s hard to predict billions of years from now. Maybe the human species will be completely evanescent from Earth. It’s possible that humans could colonize various solar systems. What if a cosmic disaster takes place and our planet is no longer around? One cosmic calamity is bound to happen in the next few billion years.
Since 2002, it was speculated that our neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda (M31), was on a collision course with us and that our two galaxies would be warped together. NASA has now confirmed the head-on collision and its inevitability.
At a press conference Thursday, NASA officials announced they can now officially predict when the major cosmic collision would take place. The destined clash will transpire in the next four billion years, according to a news release
. Later, Andromeda’s small companion, the Triangulum galaxy (M33), will enter the foray and then merge with the Andromeda/Milky Way formation.
“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 STScI.
This will give our Milky Way galaxy a complete makeover as the sun will be flung into a new region of our galaxy, but researchers say that Earth and our solar system are not in any danger of being completely annihilated.
Researchers confirm since the galaxy’s stars are so far apart that they will not collide with one another, but they will be instead thrown into different orbits. Our solar system, however, will be closer to the galactic core than it is today.
Estimates suggest that Andromeda is approaching us 2,000 times faster. Data also shows that it will take an additional two billion years for the complete integration of the two galaxies due to the gravity and the reshaping of a single elliptical galaxy.
“In the worst-case-scenario simulation, M31 slams into the Milky Way head-on and the stars are all scattered into different orbits," said Gurtina Besla of Columbia University in New York. "The stellar populations of both galaxies are jostled, and the Milky Way loses its flattened pancake shape with most of the stars on nearly circular orbits. The galaxies' cores merge, and the stars settle into randomized orbits to create an elliptical-shaped galaxy."