WASHINGTON – A cataclysmic collision between our Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda is inevitable, but in four billion years. This was according to forecasts announced by NASA.
“Our model corresponds statistically to a collision between the Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way,” said Roeland van der Marel, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, during a press conference.
This conclusion results from measures of speed and direction of the trajectory of Andromeda, a complicated operation performed using the Hubble Space Telescope.
Andromeda, also known as M31, is currently at 2.5 million light years away (one light year is 9460 billion km), but is moving inexorably in the Milky Way.
This attraction comes from the gravitational forces exerted by the respective galaxies and the invisible dark matter that surrounds them.
“After almost a century of speculation in the scientific community about the fate of its neighbor, Andromeda and the Milky Way, we finally have a clear idea of the progress of these cosmic events in the coming billion years,” noted Sangmo Tony Sohn, from the STScI.
This scenario is similar to the role of the “drummer” in a game of baseball. One who looks at the ball coming toward him at high speed, these are the astrophysicists.
Although Andromeda is approaching our galaxy 2,000 times faster, it will need four billion years before colliding with the Milky Way.
Furthermore, computer simulations developed with data produced by Hubble show it will take two billion years more, after the meeting between the two galaxies, so that their merger is complete.
This will provide a single galaxy, elliptical in shape, most common in our surrounding universe, the astronomers explained.
The Milky Way galaxy is a flat, so it will come out completely transformed, they predict.