Skip to comments.Astronomy Picture of the Day -- M31 versus M33
Posted on 09/26/2013 6:34:06 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
Explanation: Separated by about 14 degrees (28 Full Moons) in planet Earth's sky, spiral galaxies M31, left, and M33 are both large members of the Local Group, along with our own Milky Way galaxy. This wide-angle, telescopic mosaic captures colorful details of spiral structure in both, while the massive neighboring galaxies seem to be balanced either side of bright Mirach, beta star in the constellation Andromeda. But M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is really 2.5 million light-years distant and M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, is also about 3 million light years away. Mirach, just 200 light-years from the Sun, lies well within the Milky Way, along with the dim clouds of dust drifting through the frame only a few hundred light-years above the galactic plane. Although they look far apart, M31 and M33 are locked in a mutual gravitational embrace. Radio astronomers have found indications of a bridge of neutral hydrogen gas that could connect the two, evidence of a closer encounter in the past. Based on measurements, gravitational simulations currently predict that the Milky Way, M31, and M33 will all undergo mutual close encounters and potentially mergers, billions of years in the future.
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[Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors)]
The Battle of the Galaxies continues.
A good game of galactic Pong.
Thanks so much, SunkenCiv.
Do astronomers have a contingency plan for when the merger happens? One number will suffice for the combined double galaxy, so M33 will be available for another celestial object.
When M31 and M33 merge you'll see a headline that says, "Scientists Say that Global Warming Partly to Blame for M31 and M33 Merger".
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