Milky Way on Collision Course With Large Magellanic Cloud

James Marshall
January 5, 2019

Referring to a previous study that predicted collision between our galaxy Milky Way and neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda in eight billion years, a new research by astrophysicists at Durham University in United Kingdom said the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) could hit the Milky Way in two billion years' time. Researchers in Durham, England, and Helsinki, Finland, used the Evolution and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments (EAGLE) simulator, which can recreate the movements of 10,000 galaxies at a time, to show a cosmic crash with the LMC is coming much sooner than expected.

If the catastrophic collision wakes up the black hole sleeping at the center of our galaxy, this dark beast will begin devouring everything in sight, growing ten times larger than it already is.

"This phenomenon will generate powerful jets of high energy radiation emanating from just outside the black hole", explains lead author Marius Cautun, a cosmologist at Durham University.

Though these cosmic fireworks are unlikely to affect life on Earth, the scientists said there is a small chance that the initial collision could send our Solar System hurtling into space.

However, about six billion years before this, there could be another cosmic auto crash, when our home galaxy is hit by the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy that is around 14,000 light years in diameter and orbits the Milky Way.

This illustration shows a stage in the predicted merger between our Milky Way galaxy and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, as it will unfold over the next several billion years. "Therefore, the collision with the Large Magellanic Cloud is long overdue and it is needed to make our galaxy typical". So far, it has managed to get by relatively unscathed in the grand scheme of things.

Galaxies like our own Milky Way are surrounded by a group of smaller satellite galaxies that orbit around them, in a similar way to how bees move around a hive.

These galaxies can lead separate lives for many billions of years, but on occasion, they can find themselves sinking into the centre of their host galaxy, until at last they collide and are swallowed up completely. The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, spotted in 2003, is considered the actual nearest neighbor.

Co-author Professor Carlos Frenk, Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology, Durham University, said: 'Beautiful as it is, our Universe is constantly evolving, often through violent events like the forthcoming collision with the Large Magellanic Cloud. "This represents very slim pickings when compared to nearby galaxies of the same size as the Milky Way".

The LMC will be our first meal in a while. New calculations suggest it has twice as much dark matter as previously thought and that all that previously undetected mass could mean it's slowing down and will be unable to escape the gravitational pull of the Milky Way.

Considering this larger-than-expected mass, the researchers say the LMC is rapidly losing energy.

In a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists from the U.K.'s Durham University have said the collision could take place in two million years and that if and when this happens, it could wake up the supermassive black hole that sits at the center of the Milky Way.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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