Although the future of humanity is uncertain and is in constant construction, the path that the Milky Way will follow is already written: our galaxy will disappear once it collides with Andromeda, its neighboring galaxy.
And it is not a divine design, but the gravitational attraction between both structures that causes an approximation of 400 thousand kilometers per hour, imperceptible on a human scale, but decisive in the future of both galaxies and all the bodies that are part of them in the long term.
The collision will occur in 4 billion years and it’s inevitable. Andromeda rushes towards the Milky Way in a straight line and gravity will eventually merge the two and give shape to a new giant elliptical galaxy, which will completely change the Local Group, the cosmic neighborhood of which the Solar System is part.
Although this event is considered an imponderable of astronomical dimensions in which humanity has no interference, a new observation from the Hubble Space Telescope confirmed that to the surprise of astronomers, the deadly dance between the Milky Way and Andromeda has already begun.
This is what the collision between the two galaxies would look like in 4 billion years. Photo: NASA; THAT; Z. Levay and R. van der Marel, STScI; T. Hallas; and A. Mellinger
After mapping the halo around Andromeda, defined by NASA as an “immense envelope of gas” that surrounds the galaxy, the scientists discovered that it is much broader than previously believed, to the extent that at some points, started to merge with the halo of the Milky Way:
“Scientists were surprised to discover that this faint and almost invisible halo of diffuse plasma extends 1.3 million light years from the galaxy, about half our Milky Way, and up to 2 million light years in some directions. . This means that the Andromeda halo is already colliding with the halo of our own galaxy ”, explains NASA.
This research is the first to learn more about the dynamics and composition of the gas halos that surround galaxies and due to their distance and magnitude, it could only be so complete by analyzing Andromeda, known as M31 in the Messier catalog.
The discovery was made possible thanks to the project FRIEND (Ionized Gas Absorption Map in Andromeda) that took as a reference the light absorbed by the halo of 43 scattered quasars behind it and through a Hubble instrument specialized in spectrography, detected ionized carbon gas, silicon and oxygen in ultraviolet light.
This is what the Andromeda halo would look like if it were visible from Earth. Photo: NASA, ESA, J. DePasquale and E. Wheatley (STScI) and Z. Levay
Because we are part of one of its spiral arms, it is difficult to know in detail the dimension of the halo of the Milky Way, astronomers consider that it behaves in a similar way and therefore, it is possible to say that the collision between both galaxies is ongoing:
“Because we live inside the Milky Way, scientists cannot easily interpret the signature of our own galaxy’s halo. However, they believe that the halos of Andromeda and the Milky Way must be very similar, since these two galaxies are quite similar. The two galaxies are on a collision course and will merge to form a giant elliptical galaxy about 4 billion years from now, ”NASA noted.
World news – CA – Science : The merger of Andromeda and the Milky Way that will end both galaxies has already begun