The cannibal neighbor of the Milky Way continues to devour space: is there a threat to us

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The Milky Way's cannibal neighbor continues to devour space: is there a threat to us

Scientists believe that the Andromeda galaxy was consuming its nearest neighbors in different time periods and probably does it now.

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Research in recent decades shows that galaxies are constantly growing in size, thanks to the so-called “cosmic cannibalism”: the absorption of one large galaxy by other smaller galaxies. The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest major galaxy to our own Milky Way, and a new study shows that it has been gobbling up other galaxies in two different time periods.

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Geraint Lewis and his colleagues from the University of Sydney presented their new study, in which he showed the results of many years of observations of the Andromeda galaxy. It is believed that in the future, and estimates of this future vary from hundreds of millions to billions of years, this galaxy will collide with the Milky Way. Scientists believe that the stars of these galaxies will merge and the result will be something huge.

But at the same time, scientists already know that galaxies grow because they attract their smaller neighbors towards them. Our galaxy also has satellites that are subject to the gravitational influence of the Milky Way, which will eventually absorb them.

“A few years ago, we noticed objects on the outskirts of the Andromeda galaxy that were a sign of the greedy absorption of its neighbors by this galaxy. But now we have a clearer picture of exactly when this cosmic cannibalism occurred,” says Lewis.

We are talking about globular clusters of stars, which are believed to play an important role in the evolution of the galaxy, but which one is still completely unknown. These clusters are in the galactic halo, while open clusters of stars are in the disk of the galaxy.

Milky Way cannibal neighbor continues to devour space: is there a threat to us

Milky Way cannibal neighbor continues to devour space: is there a threat to us

< p>These globular clusters have low metallicity (that is, their stars have fewer metals in their composition, and in astronomy, elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are called metals). This low metallicity, which is less than most of the stars in the Andromeda galaxy's halo, indicates that these globular star clusters were attracted from outside. This also suggests that they are older than the rest of the star clusters, because in the early Universe there were much fewer heavy elements.

According to Lewis, he found 10 to 20 globular star clusters in the halo of the Andromeda galaxy, which have distinctive composition of stars.

As a result of the study, scientists came to the conclusion that the Andromeda galaxy has been actively absorbing its neighbors for the last 5 billion years. But before that, she was engaged in similar “gluttony” between 8 and 10 billion years ago.

“We are now closer to a greater understanding of the evolution of galaxies. But I would like to know what is happening with our Milky Way. Do this very difficult, because we are inside. But the Andromeda galaxy gives us some clues, “says Lewis.

But so far, scientists cannot say for sure whether the Andromeda galaxy swallowed several large galaxies or whether it was several dozen dwarf galaxies galaxies. By the way, the Andromeda spiral galaxy is larger than the Milky Way and contains more stars.

In order to continue their observations, scientists want to use the Webb Space Telescope, which can reveal more details of what is happening with the Andromeda galaxy.< /p>

As Focus already wrote, the Milky Way turned out to be not quite the same as it was thought. Scientists have discovered that the halo of our galaxy is not spherical.