Space

Milky Way Is Being Slowly 'Pulled' Apart by a Neighbouring Galaxy

The gravitational force is causing our home galaxy to twist and deform. 
November 27, 2020, 1:12pm
Milky Way is being pulled apart by neighbouring galaxy
Photo courtesy of Jason Blackeye / Unsplash

According to astronomers, the Milky Way galaxy is being slowly twisted and deformed by the gravitational force of a neighbouring satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).

In a study published in the journal of Nature Astronomy, researchers found that the Milky Way is being pulled by the gravitational force of the dark matter halo surrounding the LMC at the speed of 71,600 miles per hour. This has resulted in the deformation of our galaxy, which is home to more than 500 solar systems. 

The new discovery challenges the belief that the Milky Way is static, and will require researchers to now develop a new model that describes the evolution of the galaxy. A statistical model was used to calculate the speed of the Milky Way’s most distant stars by researchers at the University of Edinburgh. 

The lead author of the study, Dr Michael Peterson along with his team, found that the LMC crossed the Milky Way boundary around 700 million years ago. Previous research has shown that the LMC is surrounded by dark matter, which is a substance that does not reflect, emit or absorb light. The dark matter that surrounds the satellite galaxy strongly upset the fabric and motion of the Milky Way. 

Petersen said in a statement, “The effects of this relatively recent collision are still being witnessed today — and should force a revision of the birth of the Milky Way.”

It has now been proved that the attraction of the dark matter in LMC is pulling the Milky Way’s galactic disc at 20 miles a second. Researchers concluded, from previous studies, that our galaxy was not moving in the direction of the LMC’s current location, but was actually being pulled towards the constellation Pegasus in the northern sky. This is because the LMC is floating away at an even faster speed of 230 miles a second. 

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The Large Magellanic Cloud is named after the first man to travel the Earth, the 16th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

The findings of this study will now require scientists to re-examine how the Milky Way galaxy was formed. The discovery also brings to light the dynamic interplay between the two galaxies. 

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