Big bang: Milky Way could hit nearby gal­axy

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doyle Rice

Talk about your fender ben­der. Al­though it’s not some­thing we have to worry about any time soon, our Milky Way gal­axy could col­lide with a nearby gal­axy (the Large Mag­el­lenic Cloud) in a “spectacular” cos­mic col­li­sion in about 2 bil­lion years, a new study sug­gests.

The col­li­sion might knock our so­lar sys­tem “out of the Milky Way and into in­ter­ga­lac­tic space,” said study lead au­thor Mar­ius Cau­tun of Durham Univer­sity in the U.K.

For­tu­nately for our de­scen­dants – or what­ever species still lives here at that time – re­searchers say it’s un­likely that this event will put life on Earth at risk, ac­cord­ing to the news web­site Quartz.

Study co-au­thor Car­los Frenk, also of Durham, said that “bar­ring any dis­as­ters, like a ma­jor dis­tur­bance to the So­lar Sys­tem, our de­scen­dants, if any, are in for a treat: a spectacular dis­play of cos­mic fire­works as the newly awak­ened su­per­mas­sive black hole at the cen­ter of our gal­axy re­acts by emit­ting jets of ex­tremely bright en­er­getic ra­di­a­tion.”

“The de­struc­tion of the Large Mag­el­lanic Cloud, as it is de­voured by the Milky Way, will wreak havoc with our gal­axy,” ac­cord­ing to Cau­tun. It will turn the Milky Way into “an ac­tive ga­lac­tic nu­cleus or quasar,” he said.

The event may seem far away for most peo­ple, but not for as­tronomers. “It is a very short time on cos­mic timescales,” Cau­tun said in a state­ment.

The Large Mag­el­lanic Cloud is the bright­est satel­lite gal­axy of the Milky Way and only en­tered our “neigh­bor­hood” about 1.5 bil­lion years ago, ac­cord­ing to the study. It’s about 163,000 light years from the Milky Way.

The study was pub­lished Jan. 4 in the peer-re­viewed jour­nal Monthly No­tices of the Royal As­tro­nom­i­cal So­ci­ety.

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