The night sky looks peaceful at the moment, but over the next few billion years, the heavens are going to liven up a great deal, because our Milky Way galaxy is on a collision course with its largest neighbour, the Andromeda spiral galaxy.
This monster lies over two million light-years away, but is approaching at around seven million miles a day.
According to Astronomers Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell the two galaxies will merge to form one giant galaxy.
Heavens above: An artist’s impression of the two galaxies entangling
“There’s a good chance that the central parts of the two galaxies will miss, slightly, but will become close enough for their outer halos to become gravitationally entangled,” they wrote on Nasa’s Astronomy Picture Of The Day website.
“Once that happens, the two galaxies will become bound, dance around, and eventually merge to become one large elliptical galaxy - over the next few billion years.”
The picture is an artist’s impression of what the night sky might look like to someone standing on a world in the distant future, witnessing the two galaxies wrestling with each other.
The collision will result in an unprecedented spate of star formation as vast fields of cold gas are compressed.
The outer spiral arms of both galaxies are likely to be destroyed by the cosmic crash.