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Hubble Captures Detail of Two Galaxies on Collision Course

Astronomers shared a sneak peek of two Galaxies that are 100 million light-years away giving astronomers a sneak preview of the fate of the Milky Way. They are categorized under a single name, Arp 91, the spiral Galaxies NGC 5953 and NGC 5954 are in the process of merging, with material from the latter extending towards and into the former.

The details of this merger are visible in a new image from the Hubble Space Telescope. According to our models of these colossal cosmic interactions, two Galaxies will join together and become one big elliptical galaxy. That’s how astronomers expect the Milky Way to end up, too, when it merges with our own closest galactic neighbor, the spiral galaxy Andromeda.

Galactic mergers are not uncommon in the Universe. Space is large, and people might think that things wouldn’t bump into other things often, but Galaxies are not adrift in a sea of nothing. They are often connected by vast filaments of intergalactic gas, which can act as matter highways along which Galaxies are drawn together across the void.

Astronomers have spotted many galactic collisions, but they take place on a time scale of around a billion years, so any collision in isolation won’t reveal the process. The merger between the Milky Way and Andromeda is even further. Scientists predict that it will start taking place around 4.5 billion years from now. The two will merge, their spiral structures dissolving into a bright, nearly featureless type of galaxy called an elliptical galaxy.

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