A for Andromeda

andromedagalaxyThe endless reaches of space are almost entirely empty, so you might imagine that collisions between stars are extremely rare events. However, because of gravity, matter tends to clump together (which is why space is mostly empty). As a result, collisions between stars and even galaxies happen surprisingly often.

And I have some bad news for you. The Andromeda galaxy, containing 1 trillion stars, is on a collision course with our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and is approaching at a speed of 200 miles per second.

That’s thousands of times faster than the asteroid that caused the dinosaurs to become extinct, and a thousand trillion trillion times more massive. You don’t want to be sitting around on Earth when that happens, even if you have a nuclear bunker under your cellar, like they all do in Switzerland.

In fact you probably won’t be, because the collision isn’t due for another 4 billion years. But don’t worry – I’ve found this beautiful series of illustrations of what the collision will look like for an observer on Earth.

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Beautiful, but a little scary too.

By the way, if anyone tells you that space travel is a waste of money, tell them about the Andromeda galaxy and the need for us to leave the Milky Way before shit happens. And tell them that the clock is already ticking.

5 responses to “A for Andromeda

  1. Cool stuff Steve! I love this spacecadet stuff too. And i would love to watch the collision. Tho some astronomers have said that both galaxies should merge almost without a single collision. And reason why is the point you actually made yourself….space is basicly empty. Both theories make sense to me so unless someone sticks around to see it we will never know. Unless mathematics could be used but the equation itself would be monumental. I know you don’t like the idea of time travel but i have reason to think that it is more than possible….i think it is actual. I’ve got my sparring gloves on so come out swinging if you want on that claim. Anyway, going back to your post…i feel we will indeed witness these collisions for no other reason that we need to, and that need will give us the way. Which give creedence to the old saying; where there is a will there is a way. I also think time travel doesn’t just mean to move about in time, but also means to traverse distance. Think of it this way….if we today were to travel back in time or forward, we the time travelers would find ourselves in space exactly 24 hours either side of the Earth relative to it’s orbital speed…..so in essence all those movies about time travel are wrong. And because the galaxy revolves you could essentialy take yourself out of time and wait for the other side to come to you. But then i suppose you would need to take the expansion rate of the universe into account because you may just end up in a different galaxy? Which then raises then question of does “empty” space have fixed points that are plotable and able to be targetable? Surely orbital mechanics fail to work inside the “no time” of time time travel? Otherwise that would mean that speed affects time affects speed. Anyway, as i said earlier a experience that several people witnessed from different parts of Sydney stated to me uncatergoricly that we have this ability oneday. Thanks for the great post Steve.

    • I’m not an astronomer, so I don’t know about stars colliding, but I’m pretty sure that all the gas and dust and other stuff will collide, releasing an enormous amount of energy. I have seen photos of colliding galaxies and you can see the emissions from those events.

      Time travel – yes, time, space, speed all intricately entangled. Bring on the paradoxes!

  2. I think that’s a bit awesome! But scary too… At least it will look pretty from afar :)

  3. I volunteer to lead the mission away from the Milky Way! :) Anything to get my butt out there in space. Truly phenomenal illustration.

  4. We really do live in a tough neighborhood, don’t we?

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