Big bang: Milky Way could hit nearby galaxy
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 fireworks 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.