What will eventually happen to our own Milky Way is seen in a recent telescopic photograph.
A recent picture from a telescope shows two galaxies that are entangled and will ultimately merge into one galaxy millions of years from now, foreshadowing the Milky Way’s eventual, similar demise.
The interacting spiral galaxies were discovered in the Virgo constellation, roughly 60 million light-years distant, by the Gemini North telescope on the summit of Maunakea in Hawaii.
The Butterfly galaxies, also known as NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, are a pair of galaxies that are currently colliding due to gravity.
The two cosmic systems will unite to create a single elliptical galaxy after 500 million years.
The two galactic centres are 20,000 light-years distant at this early stage, and each galaxy has kept its pinwheel configuration.
Gravitational forces will cause a number of powerful star formation events as the galaxies grow increasingly intertwined.
The original galaxies’ architecture will be altered and distorted.
They will dance around one another in ever-shrinking circles over time.
Long streams of gas and stars will be pulled and stretched out by this intricately looping dance, combining the two galaxies into what looks like a spherical.
The gas and dust required to start star formation will be consumed or dispersed by this cosmic entanglement over millions of years, which will slow down and ultimately stop stellar creation.
Astronomers now have further proof that spiral galaxies combine to become elliptical galaxies because to observations of previous galactic collisions and computer models.
When the two come together, the final structure would resemble Messier 89, an elliptical galaxy that is situated in the constellation Virgo.
Very little star formation took place after Messier 89 lost the majority of the gas required to create stars.
Older stars and ancient clusters are now present in the galaxy.
The afterglow of a supernova, which was seen for the first time in 2020, can also be seen in the new picture as a bright point in one of the spiral arms of galaxy NGC 4568.
Milky Way merger
When the Milky Way galaxy finally collides with the Andromeda galaxy, our closest and greatest galactic neighbour, a comparable galactic merger will take place.
Hubble data were utilised by NASA researchers in 2012 to forecast the potential timing of a collision between the two spiral galaxies.
The event is predicted to occur in between 4 and 5 billion years.
According to research based on Hubble Space Telescope data released in 2020, a large halo that surrounds the Andromeda galaxy is really rubbing up against the Milky Way galaxy’s halo right now.
Nearly halfway to the Milky Way, and up to 2 million light-years in other directions, Andromeda’s halo, a large envelope of gas, stretches out from the galaxy 1.3 million light-years away.
This neighbour is just 2.5 million light-years distant, is equivalent in size to our huge galaxy, and may contain up to a trillion stars.
On an astronomical perspective, it may seem terribly far away, yet it brings Andromeda so near that it can be seen in our October sky.
In the fall, you may see it as a fuzzy cigar-shaped speck of light high in the sky.
Andromeda has a gigantic halo that is three times wider than the Big Dipper constellation and dwarfs everything else in our sky, although it is undetectable to the unaided eye.
When the Milky Way and Andromeda combine, it’s doubtful that our solar system will be annihilated, but the Sun may be sent into a new section of the galaxy, giving Earth’s night sky some new breathtaking vistas.