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Waspie_Dwarf

Did Andromeda crash into the Milky Way?

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Did Andromeda crash into the Milky Way 10 billion years ago?

For many years scientists have believed that our Galaxy, the Milky Way, is set to crash into its larger neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy, in about 3 billion years’ time and that this will be the first time such a collision has taken place. But now a European team of astronomers led by Hongsheng Zhao of the University of St Andrews propose a very different idea; that the two star systems collided once before, some 10 billion years ago and that our understanding of gravity is fundamentally wrong. Remarkably, this would neatly explain the observed structure of the two galaxies and their satellites, something that has been difficult to account for until now. Dr Zhao will present the new work at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in St Andrews on Thursday 4 July.

The Milky Way, made up of about 200 billion stars, is part of a group of galaxies called the Local Group. Astrophysicists often theorise that most of the mass of the Local Group is invisible, made of so-called dark matter. Most cosmologists believe that across the whole universe, this matter outweighs ‘normal’ matter by a factor of five. The dark matter in both Andromeda and the Milky Way then makes the gravitational pull between the two galaxies strong enough to overcome the expansion of the cosmos, so that they are now moving towards each other at around 100 km per second, heading for a collision 3 billion years in the future.

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Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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