New Research Suggest Andromeda And Milky Way Galaxies Are Already Touching, Might Collide Sooner Than We Think

The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy won’t collide for next 4 billion years. But but a recent discovery of a massive halo of hot gas close to Andromeda Galaxy may mean that our galaxies are already touching. Astrophysicist Nicholas Lehner from University of Notre Dame, led a group of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope to detect an enormous halo of hot, ionized gas about 2 million light years in diameter around the galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy and Milky Way are the largest member of a ragtag group of some 54 galaxies, called the Local Group. Andromeda, with almost a trillion stars — twice as many as the Milky Way — shines 25% brighter and can simply be seen with the naked eye from outlying and rural skies.

If the recently discovered halo spreads at least a million light years in our direction, our two galaxies are way MUCH closer to touching than previously thought.

Lehner defines halos as the “gaseous atmospheres of galaxies”.  Regardless of its huge size, Andromeda’s nimbus is almost invisible. To observe and study the halo, the astronomer sought out quasars, distant star-like objects that emit incredible amounts of energy as matter is sucked into the supermassive black holes. The brightest quasar, 3C273 in Virgo, can be easily observed with in a 6-inch telescope!

Learn more here.

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