Washington: Astronomers have long estimated that the Andromeda galaxy will collide with the Milky Way galaxy around 8 billion years from now.
Now, they believe that another collision may happen even sooner, a CNN report cited.
According to a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Large Magellanic Cloud will catastrophically collide with the Milky Way in 2 billion years.
The impact, they say, has a chance of sending the Milky Way “hurtling through space.”
Speaking about it, Marius Cautun, study author and postdoctoral fellow at Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, said in a statement, “The destruction of the Large Magellanic Cloud, as it is devoured by the Milky Way, will wreak havoc with our galaxy, waking up the black hole that lives at its centre and turning our galaxy into an ‘active galactic nucleus’ or quasar.”
Cautun went on to add, “This phenomenon will generate powerful jets of high energy radiation emanating from just outside the black hole.”
He further said. “While this will not affect our Solar System, there is a small chance that we might not escape unscathed from the collision between the two galaxies which could knock us out of the Milky Way and into interstellar space.”
While 2 billion years may sound like a long time for us, it is much less than the age of the universe at 13.8 billion years. The Milky Way galaxy itself is about 13.5 billion years old.
Alis Deason, co-author of the study and royal society university research fellow at the Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, said in a statement that they think that up to now the galaxy has had only a few mergers with very low mass galaxies.
Deason added, “This represents very slim pickings when compared to nearby galaxies of the same size as the Milky Way. For example, our nearest neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, devoured galaxies weighing nearly 30 times more than those consumed by the Milky Way. Therefore, the collision with the Large Magellanic Cloud is long overdue and it is needed to make our galaxy typical.”
According to the researchers, if the collision does not send the Milky Way galaxy hurtling through space, the galactic show will be something to see from Earth’s perspective.