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The Milky Way is on course for a collision with a neighboring galaxy that has the potential to fling our solar system into deep space. But the expected crash between the Milky Way and The Large Magellanic Cloud isn’t likely to occur for at least two billion years.
Researchers from the University of Durham ran simulations on the movement of The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and discovered that rather than pull away from the Milky’s way magnetic field it is on a direct collision course.
The LMC is currently about 163,000 light years from the Milky Way and moving away from it at about 250 miles per second.
Collision will have dire consequences
But the models created by the scientists show that at some point the Cloud will turn back around and then eventually smash into the Milky Way.
The collision won’t be a physical crashing together of objects, but the arrival of a galaxy weighing more than 250 billion suns will have dire consequences.
“The whole of the Milky Way will be shaken, and the entire solar system could be ejected into outer space,” said Carlos Frenk, director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham.
“If that happens, I don’t see how our descendants, if we have any, will be able to withstand it.”
Milky Way's black hole will increase after the crash
The Milky Way is an anomaly amongst spiral galaxies. It contains fewer stars than other similar galaxies and the black hole at its center is significantly smaller, just one-tenth the size of other comparable galaxies.
The collision could result in a bigger and more beautiful galaxy Frenk predicts.
“Once the LMC gets gobbled up by the Milky Way, our galaxy will become a beautiful, normal spiral. Most of the halo will become stars from the LMC and the black hole will gorge on this sudden unexpected abundance of fuel and it will go berserk.”
The second collision will be 'Armageddon'
This isn’t the only predicted collision the Milky Way is on track for. The Milky Way is expected to make contact with another neighbor, Andromeda, in about eight billion years.
Though this number could be stretched, if the collision with LMC does eventuate. “One of the by-products of the collision with the LMC is it will delay Armageddon,” Frenk said. “It will move the Milky Way a bit and that may buy us a couple of billion years.
The first major collision for the Milky Way might be survivable, but according to the experts, the second one will definitely be doomsday. “The LMC is big but it won’t completely destroy our galaxy,” Frenk explained.
“It’ll produce these amazing fireworks, but it doesn’t have the mass to create a huge disturbance. The collision with Andromeda really will be Armageddon. That really will be the end of the Milky Way as we know it.”