"Black Hole Milky Way" by Gallery of Space Time Travel / CC BY-SA 2.0

Impending Galactic Crash Could Rip Open the Black Hole at the Milky Way’s Center

Jan 7, 2019

By Brandon Specktor

The end of the Milky Way as we know it may come a few billion years ahead of schedule.

According to a new paper published Jan. 4 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, our home galaxy appears to be on a crash course with one of its nearest satellites, the spiral of stars known as the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).

This cosmic crash, modeled in lovely and terrifying detail by a team of astrophysicists at Durham University in the U.K., could begin as soon as 2 billion years from now — roughly 2 billion to 3 billion years sooner than the long-anticipated collision between the Milky Way and its nearest cosmic neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. (Adjust your doomsday clocks accordingly.)

While the LMC boasts only about one-twentieth the solar mass of the Milky Way, the collision would nevertheless leave permanent scars on both galaxies, igniting once-dormant black holes, flinging stars quadrillions of miles out of orbit and staining the sky with crackling cosmic radiation.

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