New photos from the Hubble Space Telescope show two colliding galaxies located in the Hercules constellation. Eventually, the same thing will happen to Milky Way and Andromeda.
In the spectacular new image from Hubble, one can see a pair of galaxies, NGC 6052, colliding 230 million light-years away. The pair was first discovered by William Herschel in 1784, but they were initially classified as a single, irregularly shaped galaxy because of the unique shape. Now, however, it is known that it is not one odd galaxy, but two galaxies that are in the process of colliding with each other.
It was long ago when gravity pulled the galaxies to each other, and the stars from the two galaxies now have new trajectories because of the new effects of gravity. That said, it’s not likely for the stars in the two galaxies to collide onto each other because of the distances between them, as most of galaxies are actually empty space. In time, the two galaxies will eventually turn into one stable galaxy.
The new image was taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.
Gravitational attraction happens when two galaxies are close enough to each other, and they are pulled closer to one another as the attraction increases. Just like with NGC 6052, this collision is actually happening now with the Andromeda and our own Milky Way.
When these two massive, spiral galaxies encounter each other directly, clouds of molecules will be compressed and millions of new stars will come to life like a string of lights. During the first swing by, the two discs may form a jumble of gas, dust, and star clusters, but eventually the new galaxy will have an elliptical appearance.
It is believed that the Milky Way-Andromeda collision will happen in 3.9 billion years, but new research based on data from the Gaia spacecraft suggests that it will happen in 4.5 billion years instead.