According to scientists, the Milky Way galaxy (our home, where the solar system is located) and the Andromeda Nebula galaxy will collide in 4.5 billion years. And quite “soon” – in 3 billion years – Andromeda will approach us so close that the stars of its galaxy will be visible to the naked eye. What will this collision be like? Today, thanks to a fresh image from the Hubble telescope, you can imagine how the merger of the Milky Way and Andromeda will look from the outside, for example, from the point of view of some little green men. The model was a group of three galaxies called NGC 7764A. They are located in the constellation Phoenix at a distance of 425 million light years from Earth.
“The two galaxies in the upper right corner of the image appear to be in the process of merging with each other,” the European Space Agency describes the image. – Long streams of stars and gas emanating from them give the impression that they both have just been hit by a bowling ball galaxy, which is in the lower left corner of the image.
And here is how Alexander Ivanchik, professor of the Higher School of Fundamental Physical Research of Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (the university is a participant in the Priority 2030 program) commented on the photo:
– In the process of formation of the Universe, galaxies appear, which gravitationally interact and collide with each other. And not only galaxies collide, but even clusters of galaxies. Most often, during such events, real collisions of stars of one galaxy with stars of another do not occur. However, the gravitational tidal forces of the larger galaxy can “tear off” gaseous parts from the smaller one. Hubble captured a beautiful image of the collision of three galaxies, collectively known as NGC 7764A. This photo confirms the key concepts of the theory of the formation of large-scale structure and the evolution of galaxies.
The process of merging and passage of galaxies through each other can take hundreds of thousands and even millions of years. At the moment, calculations on supercomputers have confirmed that such phenomena are not uncommon in the universe. And optical observations, in particular the photographs obtained by Hubble, allow one to see such events with one’s own eyes. This leads to a better understanding of fusion processes.
It is worth noting that the probability of a collision of our Milky Way galaxy with the Andromeda Nebula (a galaxy as large as ours) is almost 100 percent. In a few billion years, our galaxies will begin to pass through each other. As I said, galaxies are rather rarefied star systems and therefore the probability of a massive collision of stars is almost negligible. Although some stars will pass very close to each other. In this case, their gravitational interaction can lead to the “throwout” of stars from their usual paths. Naturally, in this case planetary systems will be destroyed. But the risk of such a development of events is small fractions of a percent, given the total number of stars in galaxies (the Milky Way has from 200 to 400 billion stars – Ed).
Scenarios for the collision of the Milky Way with the Andromeda Nebula are already being calculated on supercomputers. I must say that such collisions in the history of the Milky Way galaxy have happened before. Scientists see this in the accumulation of traces of gas (gas jets and streams) near the Milky Way. The fact is that during the collision of our Galaxy with its satellites (dwarf galaxies that revolve around ours), it “rips off” matter from them, leaving gas traces behind them. This leads to the supply of new gas and the launch of new centers of star formation in our Galaxy.