Four billion years from now, our Milky Way galaxy will collide with the Andromeda galaxy, scientists have concluded.
Researchers observing regions of Andromeda with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope were able to measure its sideways motion, which shows that the galaxy is heading straight for us, Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore told reporters on Thursday, according to Space.com.
Neighboring Andromeda, roughly equal in size to the Milky Way, is currently 2.5 million light-years away, BBC News reported. But drawn together by their mutual gravity, Andromeda and the Milky Way are racing towards each other at a speed of 250,000 miles per hour.
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After the collision is over, 6 billion years from now, we will be part of a single galaxy shaped like an ellipse, Space.com reported.
But don’t fret. Earth and its solar system won’t be destroyed in the collision, scientists said, according to Space.com.
The stretches of empty space separating the stars in the two galaxies will remain vast, making any collisions or serious perturbations unlikely.
The gravitational disturbance will likely push our solar system to another spot in the galaxy, farther away from the galactic core, BBC News reported.
"Today, the Andromeda Galaxy appears to us on the sky as a small fuzzy object that was first seen by ancient astronomers more than 1,000 years ago," Van der Marel said, according to BBC News. "Few things fascinate humans more than to know what our cosmic destiny and future fate will be. The fact that we can predict that this small fuzzy object will one day come to engulf and enshroud our Sun and solar system is a truly remarkable and fascinating finding."