Collisions between galaxies have happened on a regular basis throughout the history of the Universe. The Milky Way will one day be consumed by its neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, and by looking at other galactic collisions, NASA has been able to peer into our home galaxy’s future. Andromeda, which is twice the size of the Milky Way, is approaching our galaxy at around five million kilometres a year.
In around four billion years, the two galaxies will merge, and Andromeda, otherwise known as M31, will absorb the Milky Way into its body.
By looking at other galactic collisions, NASA said “Hubble shows us the future”.
The space agency said: “Sometime in the far distant future, about 4 billion years from now, our Milky Way galaxy will collide with the neighbouring Andromeda galaxy, as illustrated in this artist’s rendition.
“The universe is expanding and accelerating, and collisions between galaxies in close proximity to each other still happen because they are bound by the gravity of the dark matter surrounding them.
“The Hubble Space Telescope’s deep views of the universe show such encounters between galaxies were more common in the past when the universe was smaller.
“A century ago astronomers did not realise that M31 was a separate galaxy far beyond the stars of the Milky Way.
“Edwin Hubble measured its vast distance by uncovering a variable star that served as a ‘milepost marker’.
“Hubble went on to discover the expanding universe where galaxies are rushing away from us, but it has long been known that M31 is moving toward the Milky Way at about 250,000 miles per hour.
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A small satellite galaxy which hovers around the edge of the Milky Way came colliding into our galaxy, leading to parts of our starry home becoming twisted and distorted.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a small satellite galaxy which now hovers on the edge of the Milky Way and distorts it.
The LMC is pulling and twisting the Milky Way disk at 32 km/s or 115,200 kilometres per hour towards the constellation Pegasus.