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The End of Our Galaxy is Coming!... in Five Billion Years

Sep 20, 2014 03:24 PM EDT
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According to a recent study, galaxies have cannibalistic tendencies. And for the massive and nearby Andromeda galaxy, the Milky Way will one day be a midnight snack.
(Photo : NASA)

According to a recent study, galaxies have cannibalistic tendencies. And for the massive and nearby Andromeda galaxy, the Milky Way will one day be a midnight snack.

And I'm certainly not talking about your favorite candy bar. The galaxy that our solar system is a part of, the Milky Way galaxy, is between 100,000 and 120,000 light years in diameter with up-to 400 billion stars. Its closest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, is larger by-far, about 260,000 light years in diameter with an estimated one trillion stars.

And unfortunately for the Milky Way, astronomers have determined that the universe is a galaxy-eat-galaxy world.

"Every now and then [small and young galaxies] get completely cannibalized by some much larger galaxy," Aaron Robotham of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) said in statement.

He recently authored a study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that details how not only the Milky Way will be consumed in about five billion years, but also how its due to get a hell of a last meal. (Scroll to read on...)

[ Andromeda and the Milky Way Collide! from ICRAR on Vimeo. ]

The Milky Way hasn't merged with another large galaxy for a long time but you can still see remnants of all the old galaxies we've cannibalized," he said. "We're also going to eat two nearby dwarf galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, in about four billion years."

This was all determined with the help of data from the Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales as part of the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey.

The GAMA survey involved more than 90 scientists and took seven years to complete, with Robotham's study of our galaxy's cannibalism being just one of 60 resulting publications. A whopping 180 studies using the data are still in progress.

According to Robotham, even with the Universe constantly expanding, galaxies are still going to consolidate, with all clusters expected to eventually form a sparce number of dense super-giant galaxies.

However, unless we eventually leave the Milky Way, mankind will be long gobbled up before that happens.

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