The Milky Way galaxy is pretty peculiar, at least considering the fact that it’s the only known galaxy that hosts intelligent life. But having one hundred thousand light-years in diameter and around two hundred billion stars, there’s no telling how many other life forms and wonders it can harbor.
But to understand fully how our galaxy works and what it’s made of, small steps are required. Therefore, astronomers are trying to find out why do the edges of the Milky Way warp. And it may be for the first time ever when they have a good answer.
Collision with a smaller galaxy
It’s not a secret among astronomers that one day, Milky Way will collide with Andromeda and thus forming a bigger galaxy. But that will happen after 4.5 billion years, and unfortunately, nobody is so optimistic thinking that anybody can reach such a venerable age.
During a new study, researchers from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysicists in Turin had been using data gathered by the European space agency’s Gaia satellite. Thus, the conclusion was that the Milky Way warps because it’s colliding with a smaller neighboring galaxy.
Eloisa Poggio of the Turin Astrophysical Observatory, and also the lead author of the study, said:
We measured the speed of the warp by comparing the data with our models,
Based on the obtained velocity, the warp would complete one rotation around the centre of the Milky Way in 600 to 700 million years.
If it’s way too early for Andromeda to merge with our galaxy, then what set of stars will bump into our own? The answer is Sagittarius, a dwarf galaxy that goes around our Milky Way. Normally, a merge between two galaxies shouldn’t cause any damage, but it’s interesting to see what further conclusions will scientists bring.
The research was presented in the journal Nature Astronomy.