Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Please Andromeda Galaxy, don't steal our solar system

This to me is almost as depressing as the news that oral sex can cause throat cancer. Our neighbour Andromeda Galaxy (which looks really great in small telescopes for those who know how to locate it and one of my favourite deep sky objects) might steal our solar system from our own Milky Way Galaxy when these two merge in the future. I know it's only going to happen in the next 2 billion years or so, but still! From Space.com:
New calculations by T.J. Cox and Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics show there is a small possibility that the Sun and its planets will be exiled to the outer reaches of the merged galaxy.

"You could say that we're being sent to a retirement home in the country," Cox said...

Computer simulations by Cox and Loeb suggest the Milky Way and Andromeda will make their first close pass in about 2 billion years. The two galaxies, currently separated by about 2.2 million light-years, are rushing towards each other at about 310,000 mph (500,000 kph). One light-year is equal to about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

During that first close encounter, the two galaxies will circle around each other a few times and their stars will begin to intermingle. The Sun at that time will still be a hydrogen-burning main-sequence star, but it will have brightened and heated enough to boil away the Earth's oceans, other studies predict.

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