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Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 4 Billion Years

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 4 Billion Years

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NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 4 Billion Years
This is an artist's concept of what our night sky might look like in 4 billion years, after a collision between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies. Click the image for a full 8-image series.

Here is the full 8-image series:

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: Present Day

NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: Present Day
This is a nighttime view of the current sky, with the bright belt of our Milky Way. The Andromeda galaxy lies 2.5 million light-years away and looks like a faint spindle, several times the diameter of the full Moon.
Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 2 Billion Years

NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 2 Billion Years
The disk of the approaching Andromeda galaxy is noticeably larger.
Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 3.75 Billion Years

NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 3.75 Billion Years
Andromeda fills the field of view. The Milky Way begins to show distortion due to tidal pull from Andromeda.
Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 3.85-3.9 Billion Years

NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 3.85-3.9 Billion Years
During the first close approach, the sky is ablaze with new star formation, which is evident in a plethora of emission nebulae and open young star clusters.
Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 3.85-3.9 Billion Years

NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 3.85-3.9 Billion Years
During the first close approach, the sky is ablaze with new star formation, which is evident in a plethora of emission nebulae and open young star clusters.
Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 4 Billion Years

NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 4 Billion Years
After its first close pass, Andromeda is tidally stretched out. The Milky Way, too, becomes warped.
Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 5.1 Billion Years

NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 5.1 Billion Years
During the second close passage, the cores of the Milky Way and Andromeda appear as a pair of bright lobes. Star-forming nebulae are much less prominent because the interstellar gas and dust has been significantly decreased by previous bursts of star formation.
Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 7 Billion Years

NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), T. Hallas, and A. Mellinger

Nighttime Sky View of Future Galaxy Merger: 7 Billion Years
The merged galaxies form a huge elliptical galaxy, its bright core dominating the nighttime sky. Scoured of dust and gas, the newly merged elliptical galaxy no longer makes stars and no nebulae appear in the sky. The aging starry population is no longer concentrated along a plane, but instead fills an ellipsoidal volume.

Most NASA images are in the public domain. Reuse of this image is governed by NASA's image use policy.

Original image data dated on or about June 1, 2012

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