Andromeda is said to be doomed to collide with THE MILKY WAY and Earth in a few billion years
ndromeda’s proximity will be deadly to our galaxy. The two galaxies are rushing closer to one another at about 70 miles per second (112 kilometers per second). Astronomers estimate that it will collide with the Milky Way in about 5 billion years. By that time, the sun will have swollen into a red giant and swallowed up the terrestrial planets, so Earth will have other things to worry about. [Milky Way Galaxy’s Head-On Crash with Andromeda in Pictures (Gallery)]

Still, the fresh influx of dust should boost star formation in the new Milkomeda galaxy, and the Earthless sun may well leave the Milky Way for good. After a messy phase, where arms project crazily from the combined pair, the two should settle into a smooth elliptical galaxy.

Galaxy collisions are a normal part of the universe’s evolution. In fact, both Andromeda and the Milky Way bear signs of having already crashed into other galaxies. Andromeda boasts a large ring of dust in its center, giving it an interesting shape. Astronomers believe this dust may have formed when it swallowed an existing galaxy

More Andromeda facts: The galaxy that changed the universe

In 1964, the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi described the galaxy as a “small cloud” in his Book of Fixed Stars, the first known report of our nearest neighbor. When Charles Messier labeled it M31 in 1764, he incorrectly credited the discovery of what was then called a nebula to the German astronomer, Simon Marius, who provided the first telescopic observation of the object.

This image of the Andromeda Galaxy is a composite of an infrared photo from ESA’s Herschel space telescope and the XMM-Newton’s X-ray telescope. The infrared frame shows rings of dust that trace gaseous reservoirs where new stars are forming and the X-ray image shows stars approaching the ends of their lives.
Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/J.Fritz, U.Gent/XMM-Newton/EPIC/W. Pietsch, MPEView full size image
In the 1920s, the distant galaxy became part of the Great Debate between American astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis. At the time, astronomers believed the Milky Way completely composed the whole of universe, and the strange patches known as nebulae lay inside of them. Curtis had spotted various nova in Andromeda, and argued instead that it was a separate galaxy.

The discussion wasn’t concluded until 1925, when Edwin Hubble identified a special kind of star known as a Cepheid variable – a star whose characteristics allow for precise measurements of distance – within Andromeda. Because Shapley had previously determined that the Milky Way was only 100,000 light-years across, Hubble’s calculations revealed that the fuzzy patch was too far away to lay within the Milky Way.

Hubble went on to use his measurements of the Doppler shifts of the galaxies to determined that the universe was expanding.

Andromeda Galaxy Wallpaper
— Nola Taylor Redd


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