Tnerife, Canary Islands, MINA – The Milky Way, the galaxy which contains our own solar system, is expanding and will eventually grow into its neighbour, Andromeda, Sky News reported.
Already 100,000 light years in diameter, new research puts its rate of growth at about 500 metres per second.
But its merging with Andromeda will not happen any time soon – it is expected to be another four billion years before they come together.
The Milky Way is home to several hundred billion stars, including the sun. New stars are being created at its outer edge and computer simulations suggested the incorporation of these stars was what was leading to the expansion.
Researchers from the Astrophysical Institute of the Canaries in Tenerife used a combination of space and ground-based telescopes to observe galaxies similar to the Milky Way, and used that data to calculate its rate of growth.
Lead researcher Cristina Martinez-Lombilla said: “The Milky Way is pretty big already. But our work shows that at least the visible part of it is slowly increasing in size, as stars form on the galactic outskirts.
“It won’t be quick, but if you could travel forward in time and look at the galaxy in three billion years’ time it would be about 5% bigger than today.”
Currently two-and-a-half million light years apart, both the Milky Way and Andromeda are spiral galaxies, but Andromeda is much larger at 110,000 light years across and containing an estimated one trillion stars. (T/RS5/RS1)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)