Andromeda Galaxy: What you should know about our neighboring galaxy?
Andromeda Galaxy: What you should know about our neighboring galaxy?
Updated on August 29, 2022 14:26 PM by Anthony Christian
The nearest neighbor to us:
One of the well-known discoveries includes the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy. We are not the only ones on Earth who have got our neighbors. Also, Earth is not the only one to get Mars and Venus as neighbors.
Even our Milky Way Galaxy has its neighbor in the Andromeda Galaxy. Scientists have been trying harder to gain more and more information on the Andromeda Galaxy over the years. The Andromeda galaxy is our Milky Way's closest neighbor, yet it is the most distant object in the sky. Scientists have calculated that it might take around seventy-three thousand years, on a rough average, to reach the outer arena of the Galaxy.
Love Thy Neighbor:
Mother Teresa said, Love thy neighbor - well, space scientists are doing everything to know and love the Andromeda Galaxy.
Moreover, they are trying to understand the neighboring Galaxy to find out whether there is any chance of it being habitable or not.
Nevertheless, you can see with your unaided eye, though that’s an exception.
However, without a telescope, if you try to watch it, it is only possible on a crystal clear night from a particular location when there is no light present that you can detect the Galaxy.
In short, without any moon, stars, and other celestial bodies in a very dark night sky, you can think of getting a glimpse of the Andromeda Galaxy.
Scientists have been way more curious to know about it than usual because the Andromeda Galaxy is the neighboring Galaxy of the Milky Way. After all, who doesn’t want to know thy neighbors?
The most surprising factor:
The surprising factor is that the Andromeda galaxy is a very beautiful spiral-looking galaxy.
Even though it looks tiny from our home planet, the closer we get to it, the more we can understand the fascination surrounding the spiral Galaxy.
Still, maybe we are not aware of one fact: our neighboring Galaxy is headed toward us. Yeah, that’s true! It sounds crazy, but Andromeda is slowly and gradually heading toward our Milky Way.
Not to worry, it is not that you will wake up tomorrow and see the majestic Galaxy out of your window.
That is not going to happen:
However, you do not need to worry about seeing the Galaxy in your sky. We are safe for a few billion years at least, as may be within that time, human civilization might not be there itself.
But the scientists have confirmed Andromeda is headed our way and on a collision course with the Milky Way.
Presently Andromeda Galaxy’s proximity to planet Earth is 2.5 million light-years away. Yes, but that does not mean we can easily reach out to the Galaxy in one go.
In comparison to all other galaxies, Andromeda is pretty close, and scientists have found it interesting to explore more about our nearest majestic Galaxy to find if there are any traces of life present in any of the exoplanets.
Nevertheless, the closeness of the Andromeda Galaxy made it a convenient target for scientists to explore more and more about it.
The scientists could not carry on with their observation for extrapolations about other spiral galaxies due to their vast distance from the Earth, let alone the Milky Way.
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The interest to know more about it:
Even though scientists and various space stations are trying to know more and more about the other aspects of the strangest objects in the Universe, Andromeda Galaxy comes first.
Moreover, scientists have recently studied the exclusive black holes, giant stars, and other objects within the Andromeda Galaxy. Thanks to Stephen Hawkings, the studies were possible in a more discrete manner.
However, the fascination with Andromeda Galaxy has always been a worldwide passion for scientists.
The recent discoveries and exploration of the scientists also included a series of stunning mosaics of Andromeda galaxy images.
The Hubble Space Telescope took these charismatic images in 2015, showing the Andromeda Galaxy in the most shocking way possible.
The more scientists get hold of the Andromeda Galaxy details, the more they are fascinated with it.
The contribution of the Hubble Telescope:
The Hubble telescope has made Andromeda Galaxy a visible fuzzy patch of stars. The numerous stars collectively in the Andromeda Galaxy stretch about as long as the width of the full moon and half as wide when seen from the Hubble Telescope. However, the reality is much broader and more outrageous than what is seen through the Hubble Telescope. The more and more one zooms in, the more enlarged the Galaxy looks in reality.
With the significant magnification through the vacuum of space, you can tell the Andromeda Galaxy stretches six times the length of the Milky Way in fullness.
Even though it is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way, there are loads of differences between them.
The Andromeda Galaxy contains a concentrated bulge of dark matter in the middle of its existence. Dark matter is surrounded by a disk of gas, dust, stars, and a massive halo. Andromeda Galaxy contains approximately a trillion stars in comparison to the 250 billion stars in the Milky Way.
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The famous future collision:
It's a unique phenomenon that the Andromeda Galaxy is on its way to colliding with the Milky Way.
This collision phenomenon has made scientists take a special look at the features and characteristics of this specific colossal Galaxy which is six times our Milky Way’s size.
Many scientists have tried to draw the structure of Andromeda and the Milky Way, which are heading toward a collision course. It’s more like how the two galaxies, when combined, will look fascinating to imagine for scientists.
Scientists worldwide have drawn a rough sketch of what the two galaxies, once combined, will look like; however, one thing is for sure it will alter the structure of the two galaxies forever.
The new Galaxy that it will form due to the collision of these two galaxies must look much different than it is now. Since human civilization will not exist during that time, we will not get to know what will happen to our solar system.
They are speeding toward each other:
The more iconic factor is that the galaxies are rushing toward each other at about seventy miles per second which is one hundred and twelve kilometers per second.
However, it looks like the speed of Andromeda rushing toward us is more than the Milky Way rushing toward the neighboring Galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy is much more interested in blending in with our Milky Way than our Galaxy.
Astronomers have made various estimates that consider the collision course an interesting topic. Scientists from all around the world have said that the collision will take lots of time.
So, we can easily sit back and relax and try to learn about our neighboring Galaxy.
Astronomers have estimated that the Andromeda Galaxy will collide with the Milky Way in approximately four billion years, which is a huge amount of time.
It has also been estimated the collision will continue for two billion years; thus, the merger will conclude six billion years from now.
Nothing can be said about the presence of Earth as a habitable planet in the future during the collision. So, none of us will be there to record what will happen during that time.
All the scientists could estimate is that by that time, our giant star sun would have swollen into a giant red ball.
It sounds unnatural, but that’s what could be estimated from now on, and accordingly, the swollen Sun would have swallowed up all the terrestrial planets by then.
So, we don’t know what would have happened to Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Kuiper belt, and the other gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn.
Probably, Saturn would not have its rings look that majestic; even Uranus would lose its ring.
So if Earth survives, it would have other things to worry about rather than thinking about whether to follow the natural habitat or not.
The existence of Earth:
Many scientists have even argued about the existence of Earth during that time; the collision will be so bombastic that Earth might blend in with some other planet and form something else.
That’s one hell of a boomshakalaka explosion and implosion with two sets of galaxies and millions of planets, along with black holes coming together.
If anything out there at that time will have life even closer to the creatures on Earth, then they might be able to record the collision in their future instruments.
Who or what will be present then is difficult to estimate now, but if anything is possible, those who can witness the collision from a different galaxy will see a bright light in their sky.
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Milkomeda will be formed:
Still, there would be a fresh influx of dust, which should boost the star formation in the new Milkomeda galaxy.
That will be one hell of a view to watch, and scientists and astronomers have made many sketches of Milkomeda and tried to work on the future vision.
Now one thing is for sure: the Earth will have no Sun during the collision. So, in a way, it may leave the Milky Way for good.
There would be a typical messy phase; here, the arms of the two galaxies would project crazily from the combined pair.
Once the messy phase goes by, the two galaxies should settle into a smooth elliptical galaxy giving it a new shape and size.
The presence of Galaxy collisions has been there since the Big Bang. It is a normal part of the Universe's evolution. However, both Andromeda and the Milky Way have already devoured other galaxies and taken the shape of what it is now.
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The specific feature of Andromeda:
Andromeda boasts a large ring of dust in its center, giving it an interesting shape. The large majestic ring is a mysterious conglomerate of many stars and galaxies.
Astronomers believe this dust ring may have formed when Andromeda swallowed an existing galaxy.
Now it looks like the Andromeda Galaxy has a prior habit of swallowing up existing galaxies and might have expanded in size due to the previous swallowing of various other galaxies.
The first-ever written evidence:
Back in 964 ACE, a Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi first took notice of the Andromeda Galaxy.
However, his Book of Fixed Stars described the Galaxy as a small cloud. This description is the first known report of our nearest neighbor in any written format.
So, it was this Persian astronomer who discovered the giant Galaxy. However, many mistakes were made by future astronomers and scientists.
It was when Charles Messier labeled the Galaxy as M31 in 1764 that he went on to credit the discovery incorrectly to the German astronomer Simon Marius.
The time when it was called Nebula:
At that time, the Galaxy was called a nebula; now, why was Simon Marius getting all the credit back then? It was because he was the one who provided the first telescopic observation of the Galaxy back then after the Persian astronomer.
However, the errors were later made right once scientists found the Persian astronomer's first description of this Galaxy.
However, astronomers worldwide became increasingly interested in the Andromeda Galaxy as time went on.
Nevertheless, the first known photographs of Andromeda were taken in 1887 by the then-astronomer Isaac Roberts.
As time went on, astronomers became more and more curious to unfold the mysteries of our distant yet neighboring Galaxy.
Scientists piqued the interest in our neighbor the most in the 1920s. Andromeda Galaxy became the talk of the town for all the astronomers and scientists around the world.
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The huge debate which unfolded:
These astronomers had different opinions regarding the gigantic Galaxy and wanted to put their viewpoints forward in front of everyone.
At the time, astronomers were unaware of the infinity and ever-expanding Universe. In those times, people still doubted that Earth was flat rather than a spherical object.
Nevertheless, those astronomers thought that the Milky Way was the only noticed presence composed of the whole Universe. The then-technology did not determine the ever-expanding Universe beyond the Milky Way.
So, they thought the Andromeda Galaxy, recognized as the strange patches in the sky known as nebulae, lay inside the Milky Way. Amongst those astronomers included Harlow Shapley.
For a prolonged time, astronomers, under the support of Harlow Shapley, thought the so-called nebulae were part of the Milky Way and that they shared its features with our Solar System.
However, Heber Curtis was not in terms of the theory of Shapley. He had spotted various novae in Andromeda through the telescope and argued that the dust-nebulae ring is a separate galaxy.
For a long time, the debate continued with astronomers taking sides; some claimed it is part of the Milky Way, whereas others claimed that its certain features scream that it is outside the Milky Way and holds a separate entity in the Universe.
The discussion concluded in 1925: Edwin Hubble identified a special kind of star known as a Cepheid variable during this time.
The specific star settled the debate once and for all - a cepheid variable’s characteristics allow astronomers to go for precise distance measurements. This cepheid variable helped in determining the distances within Andromeda.
Thus, it became clear that Heber Curtis was right about his determination that Andromeda was a separate galaxy. Though it was known as a nebula back then, it was not a part of our Milky Way.
Harlow Shapley had previously determined that the Milky Way was only 100,000 light-years across.
Keeping Shapley’s measurements in hand, Edwin Hubble calculated and revealed that the fuzzy patch of nebulae was way too far away to lie within the Milky Way.
An object within 100,000 light-year premises should look much more specific and discrete rather than just a fuzzy cloud.
All other objects within the galactical premises of the Milky way appeared to be much more discrete compared to this fuzzy cloud called Nebulae.
The discovery of Edwin Hubble
Edwin Hubble did not stop his calculations and used his measurements of the Doppler shifts of the galaxies, which helped determine that the Universe is ever-expanding.
However, as time passed, more astronomers started calculating Andromeda's distance from the Milky Way or us.
Nevertheless, the calculated distance between the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way doubled in the 1940s.
Another scientist, Walter Baade, first observed the individual stars in the distant Galaxy's central region.
So, the fuzzy dust of the ring was more of a cluster of stars in the middle portion of the Andromeda Galaxy, reflecting too much light and the foggy dust surrounding the stars.
Walter Baade also found two types of Cepheid variables in the central region of the Andromeda Galaxy. However, they also determined that the Andromeda Galaxy was much larger than our Milky Way.
Radio maps helped it:
As time passed, scientists followed radio maps of the Andromeda Galaxy in the 1950s.
Mainly, it was after the radio emissions were detected by another reputed astronomer and scientist, Hanbury Brown, along with scientist Cyril Hazard at Jodrell Bank Observatory, that the whole dimensions of the Galaxy changed amongst the people.
The more astronomers knew about the mysterious spiral beauty closer to us, the more magnetic it became for people worldwide.
However, as more and more discoveries and technological advancements started to take place in the following years, our comprehension of the size of the Andromeda galaxy has also expanded in recent years.
Scientists have found discrete details within the Andromeda Galaxy, which proves that it is much larger and broader than our Milky Way.
Just like the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy also has a supermassive black hole in its center.
Every year new information turns up regarding the Andromeda Galaxy; scientists are trying to uncover the various knots hidden behind the veil of dust in the distant yet neighboring Galaxy.
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The recent discoveries:
It was in 2015 that the Hubble Space Telescope observations found out that there is a halo of material that is surrounding the Andromeda Galaxy.
Somehow this halo of material is six times larger and thousand times more massive than what they have previously measured regarding the Galactical expansion.
At a time, various astronomers estimated that the Milky Way might also have a halo, and the halos drew the galaxies toward each other.
Nevertheless, it must be the halos of the two galaxies that are attracting each other, and the reason behind Andromeda is already on the way to merging with the Milky Way.
The merging of these two galaxies follows from the revised size estimated in 2005 and 2007. The size was revised based on observing the stars and star motions in the galactical premises.
The detailed photo of Andromeda:
It was in the fateful year of 2015 that science and discovery got their advancement much better. Scientists have released the most detailed photo of Andromeda to date, using a mosaic of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
It is the most charismatic image of the Andromeda Galaxy and has already reflected a stunning reaction from everyone.
The Hubble Telescope did a fabulous job of putting together a series of exposures to form a sequence of images showing the dreamy Andromeda Galaxy in a colorful format.
The final image included seven thousand three hundred and ninety-eight exposures taken over the telescope's different four hundred and eleven points.
The Andromeda Galaxy's high-dimension image revealed the existence of more than a hundred million stars within the Galaxy, along with dust structures and other discrete features which were previously unknown.
At the time, the renowned scientists said the series of discrete images would help them extrapolate the structure of other spiral galaxies farther from Earth, making them difficult to detect.
The other miscellaneous discoveries:
The other miscellaneous discoveries there are various miscellaneous discoveries in the Andromeda Galaxy, which include
- The tracking down of a star’s birth and death through infrared wavelengths in 2011;
- Scientists also discovered gamma-ray radiation in 2017. The radiation could indicate the presence of dark matter, which is a substance that is only known through its effects on ordinary matter such as galaxies;
- There has been further spotting of a ring of dwarf galaxies around Andromeda in 2013.
- NASA doubts a ring of dwarf galaxies or something could also be around the Milky Way. It is yet to be discovered.
Moreover, those spiral galaxies are much more difficult to view in such detail due to their immeasurable distance from Earth.
The infamous black holes:
Along with these exclusive details, even the Blackhole activities within Andromeda also came under scrutiny. Previously only Milky Way’s black hole within the star Sagittarius A* was under discussion by scientists.
However, after 2015, the Hubble telescope helped scientists to follow the route of black holes within the depth of the Andromeda Galaxy.
Not far before, but with every passing year, Andromeda became more and more interesting. The more scientists have tried to read its components, the more it has revealed surprising factors within itself.
In the second half of 2017, scientists unexpectedly came across two supermassive black holes within the center of the Andromeda Galaxy.
However, with further scrutiny, they understood that the supermassive back holes are larger than the ones in our Galaxy and closely orbiting each other.
The scientists even estimated the gravitational pull within these two supermassive black holes, which are orbiting each other.
The gravitational pull between them is pretty high, so they are closely orbiting each other and coming closer with time.
At the time, the research team said these discovered black holes at the center of the Andromeda Galaxy were, likely, the most tightly coupled pair than any other supermassive ones they have previously known.
The scientists' exclusive search was done using NASA's Chandra X-Ray Telescope. The exclusive search yielded the presence of twenty-six black holes in the Andromeda Galaxy back in 2013.
Until now, no other galaxy has numbered up to this many black holes; thus, these supermassive black holes make NASA’s biggest catch of candidates that have ever been found in another galaxy besides our Milky Way.
However, the search continued by NASA, and the scientists tracked down another forty black holes within the Andromeda Galaxy in 2016.
NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, known as NuSTAR, specializes in X-ray observations and can track down these forty black holes.
The other important discoveries:
The scientists also tracked down a probable pulsar, a dead star that spun rapidly in Andromeda. However, the discovery was made by NASA’s NuSTAR in 2017, giving more intricate details of the super-giant Galaxy.
The X-ray source was a very big innovation for NASA; it was the first of its kind to have been cataloged by NASA's Swift satellite as the object Swift J0042.6+4112, and then NuSTAR characterized it.
As time has passed, more and more research has been going on about the Andromeda Galaxy and the spread-out of the stars within its premises.
Scientists have observed that this object Swift J0042.6+4112 has a light spectrum that resembles the Milky Way pulsars.