THE MILKY WAY is on a “doomsday” collision course with a nearby galaxy – and the enormous space smash just got a new deadline.
Scientists now believe we’ll hit Andromeda in 4.5billion years’ time, about 600million years later than we thought.
But our galaxy is still doomed, as the meeting with cause the pair to merge, changing the form of Milky Way for good.
In the solar system, gravity will likely tug the Sun into a new orbit, dragging Earth and the other planets with it.
Researchers tracked the positions of stars in nearby galaxies to calculate when Andromeda will hit the Milky Way.
They used data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, which is mapping billions of stars to measure their position and speed.
Stellar movements in the Milky Way, Andromeda and another nearby galaxy called Triangulum show a collision will happen later than thought.
The pair will smash into one another in about 4.5billions years’ time – a fair chunk longer than the 3.9-billion-year estimates calculated in previous studies.
It also suggests the blow will be more of a “sideswipe” than a head on collision.
This will still cause a lot of disruption within the two galaxies, likely warping the positions of millions of stars and planets.
“This finding is crucial to our understanding of how galaxies evolve and interact,” said Gaia project scientist Timo Prusti.
Andromeda is an island of a trillion suns, so far away that its light takes more than 2.5million years to reach us.
The galaxy is currently racing toward the Milky Way at 250,000 miles per hour – fast enough to circle the world in just six minutes.
The findings are reported in the Astrophysical Journal.
Earlier this year, a shock study revealed that our galaxy could collide with a nearby galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).
Scientists recently discovered that Earth was “rocked” by a kilometre-wide asteroid 12,000 years ago – leaving a 19-mile crater behind.
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