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NASA Discovers The Milky Way May Already Be Colliding With Another Galaxy

18/05/2015 08:37 BST | Updated 18/05/2015 08:59 BST

A team of scientists have used Hubble to discover that our galaxy the Milky Way could already be in the process of colliding with another galaxy.

galaxy merge

Nicolas Lehner of the University of Notre Dame, Indiana and his team discovered a giant invisible halo of gas around our nearest neighbour the Andromeda galaxy.

While they knew about the halo before, what they didn't realise was just how large it was. It's enormous, 1000 times more enormous in fact than previously thought.

By using this data, the team were able to predict that our own galaxy probably has this same halo effect. If true, that means the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies could already be touching, pre-empting a collision that wasn't due to start for around 4 billion years.

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The good news is that being 4 billion years off your original estimate isn't the end of the world (at least not for several billion years), instead it simply means that the early stages of joining has begun.

This combined with the fact that the universe takes an awfully long time to do anything interesting these days means we'll either be extinct, or exploring the stars by the time it starts to be a problem for the human race, or you know, whatever we've evolved into by that point.