The Milky Way Galaxy is on a collision course with not one, but two neighboring galaxies and it might happen sooner than scientists initially thought.
Researchers from the Durham University in England revealed that the Milky Way Galaxy is set to plow into the Large Megallanic Cloud in 2.5 billion years. This is much sooner than the predicted impact with the Andromeda Galaxy in 8 billion years.
When The Milky Way Collides With Large Magellanic Cloud
The Large Magellanic Cloud, or LMC, is a satellite galaxy located 163,000 light-years away from Earth. It only started circling the Milky Way Galaxy about 1.5 billion years ago.
The LMC is a smaller galaxy, but it packs vast clouds of gasses that slowly collapse to form new stars. It is the brightest among the Milky Way's satellite galaxies.
Scientists assumed that the LMC will either remain in orbit for billions of years to come or escape from this galaxy's gravitational pull and fly away. However, a new study now claims that the Milky Way will cannibalize its satellite galaxy.
While the researchers believe that the Solar System will largely be unaffected by the collision, it could still wreak havoc within the Milky Way Galaxy. They warned that the collision could awaken the long-dormant black hole of the Milky Way Galaxy, the Sagittarius A*. The central supermassive black hole, which is about 4 million times larger than the sun, will devour surrounding gas, generate powerful jets of high energy radiation, and grow even bigger in size.
The researchers also shared that there is a very small chance that the initial collision will cause a shock that might kick the Solar System out of the Milky Way Galaxy and into space.
Large Magellanic Cloud Has More Dark Matter
The amount of dark matter within the LMC will play a serious role in the future of the neighboring galaxies. Recent observations reveal that the LMC has twice as much dark matter than originally thought, significantly increasing its mass.
"Even though the LMC is currently heading away from the MW, dynamical friction acting on such a heavy galaxy will cause its orbit rapidly to lose energy and, approximately a billion years from now, to turn around and head towards the center, where it is destined to merge in another 1.5 billion years or so," the researchers wrote.
The study was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.