So, assuming humanity is still around in 2 billion years and assuming all the predictions hold true, the Large Magellanic Cloud will catastrophically collide with the Milky Way in 2 billion years, according to a study published this month in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The impact, which they believe is long overdue, has a chance of sending our solar system "hurtling through space."
Very dramatic, no?
Our solar system is orbited by smaller satellite galaxies that mostly hang out and dance their majestic celestial dances, but every now and again one breaks loose and hurtles toward us. One of these is the satellite galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. It’s fairly new to orbiting us - if you consider 1.5 billion years new - and it’s the brightest satellite galaxy shining in our firmament, 163,000 light years from the Milky Way.
It’s also moving towards us.
"The destruction of the Large Magellanic Cloud, as it is devoured by the Milky Way, will wreak havoc with our galaxy, waking up the black hole that lives at its center and turning our galaxy into an 'active galactic nucleus' or quasar," Marius Cautun, study author and postdoctoral fellow at Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology, said in a statement.
"This phenomenon will generate powerful jets of high energy radiation emanating from just outside the black hole," Cautun said. "While this will not affect our Solar System, there is a small chance that we might not escape unscathed from the collision between the two galaxies which could knock us out of the Milky Way and into interstellar space."
Sounds pretty apocalyptic, right? Well, it’s actually pretty typical of major bodies in space. We’re unique in that this event is probably overdue. And it might treat our descendants to an amazing light show.
"Barring any disasters, like a major disturbance to the Solar System, our descendants, if any, are in for a treat: a spectacular display of cosmic fireworks as the newly awakened supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy reacts by emitting jets of extremely bright energetic radiation," Carlos Frenk, study co-author and director for the Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology, said in a statement.