Astronomers have long suspected that the Andromeda colossal galaxy will encounter in our modest Milky Way in billions of years.
The collision was predicted to be approximately 3.9 billion years old. But after astronomers analyzed the new data captured by satellite Gaia, which was examined by the European Space Agency, an inevitable date of 4.5 billion years has now been set up – 600 million years later, as originally expected.
An event described in detail in Astrophysical diary, is marked as "pull" and not as a direct collision. The final result would be to merge galaxies into one, monstrous galaxy.
"This finding is crucial to our understanding of how galaxies develop and interact," says Timo Prusti, a project researcher at Gaia ESA, who did not play any role in the study.
Although this event is of utmost importance to our corner of the universe, there will be little significance for Earth: by that time, our aging sun will become brighter and likely to boil the oceans while our protective atmosphere will burn out.
In order to arrive at their conclusions about the next galactic meeting, scientists have noticed how the stars move in two "nearby" galaxies moving alongside each other – the Andromeda and the Triangulum galaxies – to predict how Andromeda will ultimately travel through the intergalactic space .
"We crossed data from Gaia to identify thousands of individual stars in both galaxies, and study how these stars were moving in their galactic homes," said co-author Mark Fardal. "While Gaia is primarily intended to study the Roman road, it is strong enough to observe particularly massive and bright stars in nearby regions that make up the stars – even in galaxies that go beyond ours."
When Andromeda eventually meets, or "pulls", the Roman road, this does not mean that there will be chaos and destruction.
"This event will be less dramatic than it sounds," he stressed New Times Journalist Cosmos Dennis Overbye. "Because galaxies are mostly empty spaces, they will go through others as spirits."