Head on collision: Milky Way and Andromeda to merge … in a few billion years

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Will our Milky Way Galaxy collide one day with its larger neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy? Most likely, yes.

Artist rendering of the galaxies merger. Credit: NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), and A. Mellinger

Careful plotting of slight displacements of M31’s stars relative to background galaxies on recent Hubble Space Telescope  images indicate that the center of M31  could be  on a direct collision course with the center of our home galaxy. Still, the errors in sideways velocity appear sufficiently large to admit a good chance  that the central parts of the two galaxies will miss, slightly, but will become close enough for their outer halos to become gravitationally entangled.

Once that happens, the two galaxies will become bound, dance around, and eventually merge to become one large elliptical galaxy — over the next few billion years.

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