The end of the galaxy as we know it?
NASA illustration of the night sky prior to the Andromeda galaxy's predicted merger with the Milky Way which will begin in about 4 billion years.
May 31st, 2012
01:00 PM ET

The end of the galaxy as we know it?

Our Milky Way galaxy is an anomaly in more ways than one. And now, NASA scientists say they know exactly when it will come to an end.

In a universe that is forever spreading apart, the Milky Way has been moving closer to celestial neighbor the Andromeda galaxy. But whether we are in for intergalactic Armageddon or an extraterrestrial fender bender has been a mystery - until now.

“Very interestingly, we find that Andromeda galaxy does appear to be coming straight at us,” said Roeland van der Marel, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. He was scheduled to speak at a NASA press conference Thursday.

The discovery was made thanks to images taken over the 22-year lifespan of the Hubble Space Telescope. But the quest to determine the Milky Way galaxy’s expiration date has been undertaken by astronomers for more than 100 years. Now, for the first time, NASA scientists say they know “with certainty” when our beloved galaxy will cease to exist as we know it, what it will look like and how it will happen.

New data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope proves, NASA says, that in 4 billion years the Milky Way and Andromeda will collide or pass each other by so closely that the gravitational force each exerts on the other will cause them to slow down to the point of merging. The merger will be completed 6 billion years from now.

When galaxies collide

At the outset of universal existence, Andromeda and the Milky Way were each going their separate ways, van der Marel said.

“They have been approaching each other for the last 5 billion years," he said. "For the first 8 billion years, they were moving away from each other, and now they are moving closer together - and that will continue, always.”

In our local universe, which consists of around 50 galaxies, according to van der Marel, the Milky Way and Andromeda are goliaths. There are two galaxies that have around one-tenth the mass of two giants, and the rest are less than 1%. Each exists at the center of its own universal microcosm, with smaller galaxies swirling around similar to a solar system.

It is the massive gravitational pull that ultimately drew the Milky Way and Andromeda together, and will ultimately cause them to become one.

“The clear finding is, we are going to merge with Andromeda,” van der Marel said. “In the past, it was just a possibility, but now it is a known fact that this will happen.”

The finding was determined by comparing pictures of the sky taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over a number of years and comparing the movement of the galaxies, allowing scientists to determine the trajectory of the Andromeda for the first time.

There is a 9% chance that M-33, a satellite galaxy of Andromeda, will hit the Milky Way first in what van der Marel called a "one-two punch," causing it to become a satellite of the new galaxy that is formed.

What an intergalactic merger looks like

Van der Marel described it as a “really big cosmic pileup” that will light up the sky.

When the two galaxies hit, each containing its own set of stars and cosmic gases, the result will be the formation of many new stars - all shining bright.

The Milky Way, as it exists now, is a flat disc shape similar to a frisbee. Andromeda is more spherical. When the two combine, they will form an "elliptical galaxy," or what van der Marel described as a football-shaped galaxy. Rather than seeing a band of stars on the cosmic horizon, someone on Earth would theoretically be surrounded by them as shown in a simulation unveiled to show what the night sky will look like in 6 billion years.

The new vision of the stars won't be the only earthly changes.

“Our sun and Earth will go on a new journey through the universe,” van der Marel explained.

When Andromeda gets here, the sun will likely be pushed out much farther into the universe. By that time though, Earth will have become too hot to be inhabited by humans anyway.

Our sun will not be directly hit when the initial collision happens in 4 billion years. But in 6 billion years, when the merger is complete, our sun will die.

Meaning in the cosmos

Life on Earth as we know it will certainly not be possible by the time this great galactic merger is expected to take place. But as van der Marel said, there are “many more uncertainties than the laws of physics,” and the human race may well have figured out how to carry on with existence.

"It's a very long time from now, so people don’t have to lie awake or take out insurance," van der Marel said. "What makes it really special is it is going to happen to us, it's our sun, it's our planet, and humans are really fascinated about what our fate is going to be."

Post by:
Filed under: Discoveries • News
soundoff (360 Responses)
  1. Pete


    May 31, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  2. David

    Will it destroy Uranus?

    May 31, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Michael

      Hasn't Uranus been pretty much destroyed already?

      May 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
      • Nicanor

        That was great, I've seen what you did there. xD

        June 2, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Cowboy

    Where is the shoddy builder?

    May 31, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Martin

      May 31, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
      • Zeta Reticulan

        I love the part where he "jumps" in surprise. Incredibly bad acting ... like made for scifi channel bad acting.

        May 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
      • Fug Xu

        Heh 3:54 – 3:55 in the vid...the little alien just vanishes as the guy approaches...outstanding video! lol

        May 31, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
      • JP

        Well does that mean that Andromeda will get sucked down the black hole that is at the center of our Galaxy?

        June 1, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • Fug Xu

      "There are two galaxies that have around one-tenth the mass of two giants, and the rest are less than 1%."

      My favorite line in that article...Grade A nonsense.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
      • Brian

        @Fug Xu, the line is not well-written, but as Sean pointed out, the meaning is clear to anyone with a brain.

        May 31, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
      • Mrjamrock

        I thought I was the only one that realized the BS of that line.

        June 1, 2012 at 2:47 am |
      • deadspam

        Line should have ended "...and the remaining galaxies total mass is about 1% of the mass of Andromeda and the Milky Way combined."

        June 5, 2012 at 5:50 am |
      • Fug Xu


        Lol, not my fault you don't have a brain.

        August 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  4. VinUSA

    And we'll still think that digital watches were a pretty neat idea.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • kevin

      Maybe this is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
      • Hadenuffyet

        That would be 42.

        May 31, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
      • kastaway

        aah but what is the question

        May 31, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
      • Tbone


        May 31, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
      • kastaway

        maybe someone in andromeda is just trying to clear the way to build a new hyperspace bypass...

        May 31, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  5. Larry Niven

    We'll just move our planets and their stars to a safe distance by then like Pierson's Puppeteers.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Jeff

      I JUST READ THE RING WORLD BOOKS! ... Haven't got to the Juggler of Worlds yet. (Catching up on my bucket list of Sci-Fi to read)

      May 31, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
      • Niven fan too

        I read Ringworld over 20 yrs ago, it has never left me, it's a must read.

        May 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
      • Prisoner of Paradise

        My cay is named Speaker-to-animals.

        June 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  6. Bob

    Gosh darn it, there goes my retirement.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • CAW

      If you're saving in terms of Billions of years for retirement, I think you need to talk to a financial expert 😉

      May 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
      • Daniel Wolf

        I know, seriously, they're talking about billions of years. Although they should start worrying about this occurence, hey, they have a few billion years to figure it out anyway!

        May 31, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • burnz

      Y 10K will CERTAINLY kill off the human race... our nuclear reactors will blow.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • realcool

      People can say any nonsense that 's never gonna happen because they know they won't be here by then. I feel sorry for people who do pay taxes. This is where your money go

      June 1, 2012 at 12:47 am |
      • jimmynog

        It certainly hasn't gone into your education; you can barely write English.

        June 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  7. mane

    I can't ask for an event 6,000,000,000 years away. Good Lord, grant me tomorrow

    May 31, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  8. Gene Fogwell

    Cool. Interesting.
    I don't think that I'll wait up for it.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Blayze Kohime

      Make sure to get it on video and post it to youtube.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
      • Brent

        I'm sure by then we will have a procedure where we can neurologically upload what we see to what will by then be a massive wifi neuro internet system where Youtube is the new Big Brother....only we're policing ourselves....and by then sugar will be well as Hannity.

        June 25, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  9. Dave

    I read this in the Revelation Space series of novels by Alastair Reynolds. Only in his universe aliens were relocating life forms in our galaxy so they would survive. But, none of us will be around to see it – so who cares?

    May 31, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Woodstock504

      But you were interested enough to read and understand it...

      May 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  10. Bowman

    "The thing's hollow! It goes on forever, and... oh My God, it's full of stars!"

    May 31, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Hal

      Dave, is that you Dave? Great quote, Bowman ...

      May 31, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Not Disclosed

      ...he didn't say "oh"...

      May 31, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
      • Europa

        It's a quote from the book, not the movie.

        May 31, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  11. Randie

    Commander Shepard will save us!!

    May 31, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • McGuffin

      In either red, blue, or green...

      May 31, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  12. MikeB

    The Andromeda galaxy will put quite a STRAIN on the Milky Way galaxy.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • saurov

      strain or stain?

      May 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  13. solex

    The simple fact is that the human race will be long gone by then. We are having our time, just as the dinosaurs had theirs. I am thinking the bugs will have evolved to the point where they are running the place by then. There are FAR more bugs on the planet than people. I bet their god will look like a bug.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • BigJohnnyThunderPants

      "I bet their god will look like a bug." I bet you're right!

      May 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      Insects already had their time. They ruled the Earth before the Dino's, I believe it was during the carboniferous period.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Daniel

      There is a lot of truth to that statement, about their god being a bug. We assume a lot to think our god looks like us, or an alien looking like us. I think we have a lot wrong.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
      • Scott

        That is a quite astute comment.

        May 31, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
      • Human nature

        It's called anthropomorphism.

        May 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  14. Yoda

    A disturbance in the Force I detect, fuel up the Millennium Falcon I'm out of here !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 31, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  15. Jr

    Nadie save la hora, ni el dia, ni aun los angeles que estan en el cielo con el, un paso en la direccion correcta es mejor que vivir mil aNos solo pensandolo............

    May 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • xirume

      No han angeles en ninguna parte mas que en las fantasias infantiles de los que creen en cunetos de hadas. En el cielo no hay nada.

      June 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  16. Peter

    ...Eating a Milky Way bar now. I will most likely be working on the very instant we become one with the Andromeda Galaxy. By then my 401K which was reduced to a 101K should have grown.
    Beam me up Scotty!

    May 31, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • rtbrno65

      Milky Way bars are the bomb.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
      • Mswit

        I love Milky Ways!

        May 31, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
      • wavejump1100

        a milky way with peanuts is a snickers

        May 31, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  17. Joe

    Read these comments below, i dont know why some of you even read articles this .. we have the internet could be talking about important things . but 99% of the talk are bad jokes or religious and political propaganda.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  18. Bob

    I thought it was supposed to happen in December?? I trust these "experts" as much as that wacko religious guy who has been predicting earth's demise for the past 20 years and has been wrong every time.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Emilyy

      The experts confirmed the myan calendar did not say the world was supposed to end in December in February.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
      • esmiranda

        In February, the experts confirmed the myan calendar did not say the world was supposed to end in December.

        June 2, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  19. Peter

    Its amazing how many people really think that people are going to be around when the "sun explodes" or "dies".....have you ever seen those flies in the desert? In Australia the inner out back rarely sees water, but once in a very long while, sometimes years in between, the water finally makes it inland....the flies, or whatever they are flutter around a few short hours happy in their ignorance, sing dance eat drink mate lay their eggs and then quietly go off into the nothingness.....its amazing to me to hear people compare themselves with the lives of Stars!!!! What a joke. Our civilization is a civilization of flies...not to say that life is not sacred, it is....but we are flies, none the less...if our civilization could last another five hundred years at this size, I would be very surprised, if I could live to talk and think at that time. We have already run up against the wall of the easy discoveries....from here on end...its the hard stuff all the way.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Daniel

      I actually enjoyed your poignant observation and analogy, Peter. I agree with you 100%.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • xirume

      Excellent. I love it when somebody out there rarely posts something worth reading. Thank you.

      June 4, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  20. Ralph

    On the other hand, if humor is golden, the comments here are a veritable Fort Knox.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • BigB

      This is the only CNN sub-website on which I can stand to read the comments – many are some combination of insightful and funny.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • bigdangbang

      I agree!

      May 31, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  21. Tim

    Get us out of here Scotty!

    May 31, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  22. Cliff

    6 billion years from now!!!!!!!! I'm working a double, crap, I'm gonna miss it.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  23. FrayedJeff

    "Thanks for all the fish!" -Dolphins

    May 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • kastaway

      so long...

      May 31, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  24. Bubba™

    I have heard this my entire life. We are on a spiral arm and probably would sail right through anyway even if we hadn't died of old age.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  25. Robert

    This may be true, but The Fab Four will always be FOREVER!

    May 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  26. Hal

    HAS to be Galactic Road Rage. We just don't know which galaxy flipped off the other after passing 180 billion years ago.

    This is funny. Thanks Guido.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  27. Iconoclast

    Oh boy, yet another reason for the "preppers" to get all worked up. Might be a good time to buy gold if you are a Glenn Beck fan.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  28. Loathstheright

    Should I make reservations at "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" now, or wait a couple of years?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Bubba™

      "Should I make reservations at "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" now, or wait a couple of years?" Try the radioactive fries at the Truckstop at the end of the World.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • A Salmon of Doubt

      Thumbs up for the Adams reference.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Scott

      I tried already, they full up. I'm personally checking out every phone booth I find, hoping to catch a ride out of here!

      May 31, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • kastaway

      doesn't really matter... just as long as you put in a deposit now so it will earn enough interest to pay for your exorbitant meal once you get to the end of the universe.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  29. Maverick

    So does this mean American Idol will FINALLY go off the air???

    May 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • PantyRaid

      It means Steven Tyler will no longer need to pay for his rehab membership.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  30. more2bits

    We won't be around to enjoy the collision–the sun will bake and then absorb the earth in about a billion years so will be extinct by then.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Gmoney Baaaaaaby

      I will still be here....

      May 31, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • J

      4 to 4.5 Billion years actually. The Sun is about half way through it's life.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
      • anti-J

        Actually, no. In as little as 1 million (thats million, not billion) the sun's radiating temperature will increase and be strong enough to extinguish most if not all life on earth already. Little known fact that people (except scientists) tend to ignore. Oh, and this whole article is absolute rubbish, nothing will the "destroyed", and any civilization that is existing at that time (outside of our solar system) will not "feel" anything as the gravitational effects between the stars is too weak to perturb any orbits.

        June 4, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  31. The all potent one

    Will the resultant galaxy be to big to fail?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  32. hotel

    will the exact date be December 21, 6,000,002,012?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • BigB

      Yes, you are quite correct. The Mayan calendar irrefutably predicts this. It also predicts that rhesus monkeys will form an new political party in the U.S. that will come to power in 2020, and that they will mandate bananas in all school lunches. I, for one, will welcome our new simian overlords.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
      • Mike B.

        I think I saw a movie about that, in fact I think I saw about a dozen movies about that...

        May 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
      • klink

        "Get your stinking hands off me, you damned dirty ape!"

        May 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
      • klink

        paws actually, sorry bout that

        May 31, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
  33. Pete

    Cosmology is more conjecture than science." The universe is not only strange but stranger than we can imagine"".

    May 31, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  34. TrustEverythingYouRead

    That's it, I'm voting Republican. It's the only way we can avoid this catastrophe!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  35. Bryan

    Wasn't this an episode of Doctor Who?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Ashley

      Nah, that was just the Earth going extinct due to the sun going Nova, I believe. Assuming you're referring to the second episode with Chris Eccleston, that is.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  36. ryan

    I miss Carl Sagan.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Dave

      I second that.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  37. NTaylor

    I still might have time to pay off all my bills....

    May 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • SilverBack

      I hope I'm around to see it. I eat oatmeal everday to stay healthy and live a long, long life.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
      • Newton's butler.

        Oatmeal poisoning while texting, to be correct.

        May 31, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  38. jim

    What will happen to the price of FaceBook when this happens?
    What about the TSA?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  39. svann

    The universe is expanding because of global warming!!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  40. Richard

    It's too bad that our current species will almost certainly not be around to see this. Within the next 5 billion years the sun will have become a red giant and consumed the Earth and other inner planets. In geologic time people have been around for the blink of an eye and I don't see many encouraging signs that they will be around much longer. But wow, what a cool view it would be as NGC 224 approached.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Well

      IIn under 100 years we have gone from flight to reaching the moon. I think we have a shot.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
      • bleh64

        yeah and to shutting down the space program 🙂

        May 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  41. Extremophil

    I better get my helmet where did I put it?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  42. Joe

    Oh, sure, another cosmic mega-merger. The big get bigger and countless planets and moons get wiped out! WE ARE THE 99%!!!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  43. Kevin

    The real question is: when this happens, will Pluto become a planet again???

    May 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • fretlessbass

      It always has been and still is in my heart, man!

      May 31, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  44. Mike

    Star Trek had this figured out 30 years ago. It has taken government funded programs much longer to come to these same conclusions. The study of Quantum physics using the much maligned Gamma Theta Epsilon postulation put forth by Di Vinci in the 16th Century has already proven this but, was previously rejected by JPL astrophysicists. Consequently, efforts to further the time warp continuum project has been set-back many generations. For those who are earth-bound, having your feet firmly planted on terracotta, does the term "Beam me up Scotty" have a ring of familiarity? What does this mean for humankind? Simply that as the two galaxies approach each other the opportunity for finding and traveling to another earth-like planet is increased exponentially. Earth's resources will likely have been depleted long before the merger begins so, survival of the human species will hinge on our ability to monitor the cosmic events leading up to it while developing a timetable and the means to capitalize on this opportunity. This means once again, "Back to the Future" where Copernicus postulated his oft maligned Phi Tri-Gamma Alpha Codex which is the basis of Einstein's theory of relativity. Let's hope cooler heads prevail and we get this done right the first time. Only God knows if we'll get a second chance. Tally Ho!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Mikoid

      I don't know about you, but I have my feet firmly planted on Terra firma, not terracotta...

      May 31, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
      • Hal

        He said "Terracotta" oh man this is too much.

        May 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
      • Ursula

        Terracotta...... that's a killer, haven't laughed this hard in a while!

        May 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      Wow... umm.. the hundred billion stars in the Milky Way not enough for you to find a decent planet? If that is the case, why will adding the 100 billion more of M31 change anything?

      May 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • alton

      Well said fellow earth rider. Hail Carl Sagan.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • SilverBack

      Don't you know that all sicence comes from the imaginations of writers, duh!

      May 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • MyTake

      I feel better already ... thank you

      May 31, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  45. oldman

    Don't worry. Congress will pass a law blocking the merger.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Brandon

      Your comment just made me spew water.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  46. RunfortheHills

    Humanity will be long gone by the time this happens. Also, the article tries to deceive you into thinking that the Sun's death will be the result of the collision, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The Sun is going to die in approximately 3-5 billion years as its supply of hydrogen fuel is depleted, and regardless of whether Andromeda collides with us.

    This study also assumes that the properties of the Universe are static, but they are not. We believe the universe is expanding, but we cannot say with certainty whether the universe will continue to expand forever, or if it will ultimately reverse course and contract back into a primordial "head of a pin."

    There are still too many unknowns to declare anything that will happen billions of years from now.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • SilverBack

      And you know these fact by....I can't wait til Sunday brunch so I can expand too!

      May 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Geoffrey Atkin

      The ultimate fate of the universe has actually become far clearer in the last ten years. Perhaps the most dramatic development in cosmology within that time has been the discovery that galactic recession is actually accelerating, utterly defying the conventional wisdom re. gravity and the known mass in the universe. This is currently attributed to "dark energy". The universe is due to continue expanding until an eventual and utter heat death in which all particle activity ceases. Don't hold your breath for this eventuality. It's not due for the next google years. Just to picture how long that is: there are approximately 10 to the 85th power atoms in the known universe. This time scale will exceed that by a factor of a quadrillion.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  47. barry

    I will probably still be paying my student loans back.......

    May 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • chwingnut

      I am with you

      May 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Cindy Maddy

      Heck... I'm still in deferrment on my Fed student loans... Working on my credit cards first, since the interest rate is higher. So yeah... I 'might' have my student loans paid off by then.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  48. Ian

    Easy to make statements that the galaxy movement “will continue, always” and that a collision is going to happen “with certainty” billions of years from now. Won’t be held accountable for your statements if inaccurate.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Farscape

      As opposed to what?

      May 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • MyTake

      no one will be around to hold him in account. If you don't think so, your knowledge of the universe is too small to read these articles. Go back to sleep

      May 31, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
      • Ian

        That's the point! Anyone can say anything they want about what "will" happen billions of years from now. Nobody will ever know whether his statements hold any accuracy.

        May 31, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  49. I3atman

    Don't worry I got something in my utility belt that will stop the merger!......I'm Batman!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  50. John

    Good thing we ended the NASA space program... whoops!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  51. elandau

    Hi friends, this photo from NASA does say "Andromeda galaxy halo" however we have a better photo that is coming very soon!

    Elizabeth Landau, CNN

    May 31, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  52. defff

    the earth will cease to be habitable in 1 billion years, the sun's radiation output today is roughly 15% brighter than 1 billion years ago, and it will be 15% brighter than it is now in 1 billion years to come. this will make earth a lot like venus

    May 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Ric

      There are technological solutions to the sun's brightening over that lengthy time span. For example, billions of small reflective bits of metal could be placed in an orbit between earth and sun, possibly at the L1 Lagrangian point (so they would stay in the same relative place from earth as we go around the sun). The reflective bits could be scattered at just the right density to decrease the solar radiation hitting earth, to compensate for the sun's slowly increasing brightness. Many things are possible over a billion years of time.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
      • homer234

        Lets get solar energy from those fragments in orbit somehow at the same time...dual use...

        May 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
      • Tim

        Guess I'd better start recycling my beer cans then...

        May 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  53. engineer long time

    Medical science will have already poisoned humanity with drugs. No one will be here to watch anyway.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Farscape

      Tell Steve Jobs that… oh wait.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  54. BigJohnnyThunderPants

    Please explain your rationale that somehow we might NOT make it through under Obama. What catastrophic possiblities are there that I am not seeing?

    May 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm |

    If the universe is supposed to include everything how can a universe be local? Galaxies may contain up to 10 million stars for a dwarf to 100 trillion stars for a giant. There might be 170 billion galaxies in the universe. In addition dark matter is theorized to be a force which separates galaxies and keeps them from colliding. Also dark matter is theorized to be 4 times greater than all other matter. This article is confusing.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • BigJohnnyThunderPants

      They wrote poorly. Should have said "their local part of the universe."

      May 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
      • Rick

        That said, "the universe" does not contain everything. Our universe contains everything from our big bang. If you believe in a multiverse though, and it certainly seems plausible, even likely, then there are many universes in space. Possibly as many universes as there are galaxies in our own universe. Space is infinite after all.

        May 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  56. Adam Smith

    I don't think Congress should allow this mega merger. This will simply drive up prices for consumers.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Chris, Austin

      Hahahahaha – nice.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • BigJohnnyThunderPants

      You just outed yourself – you are not the real Adam Smith.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  57. Zombie

    Its just to bad we wont be around to this magnificent sight.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Chris

      won't be "too" bad...

      May 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  58. Larry L

    I thought the Earth was only 6000 years old and we were all going to be raptured to paradise any minute now... Was there a memo I didn't get? My computer's been down but somebody could have mentioned it at lunch!

    May 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  59. Petercha


    May 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Patriot

      4 more years!! 4 more years!! Thanks for all the great leadership President Obama!!

      May 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  60. Petercha

    The Milky Way will not "end" (as in disappear, or be destroyed, or such) when we merge with Andromeda. In fact, very few, if any, stars will actually collide. Clouds of gas will, and that will result in new star formation. But the Milky Way will not "end". It will become larger in combination with Andromeda, in fact. Maybe they will call the larger galaxy "Milky Andromeda" or "Andromeda Way", who knows. But misleading headlines like "The end of the galaxy....." show poor journalistic ethics, in my opinion.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Paul

      Right you are! However some stars and solar systems will be thrown out into inter-galactic space. How lonely!

      May 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • BigJohnnyThunderPants

      "World Ends!" sells more magazines (or online ads) than "Galaxies to Merge – No Cause for Alarm!"

      May 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • steve

      I must point out, you did not complete the headline. The headline is, "The end of the galaxy as we know it?" which is completely true.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Rick

      I'd be willing to bet that the increased gravitational forces would cause many suns to collide though. Certainly not all, but more than would occur without the merging of the galaxies.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • bud in NC

      OOOH! When the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies collide, it will form one really, really big Milky Way candy bar. Love em. I can hardly wait. We will all have to be patient though.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  61. Tom

    Dang! I am getting very depressive with our end so close.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  62. Luis

    Sounds like earth needs an elliptical trainer.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  63. BigJohnnyThunderPants

    I just copyrighted "Milkdromeda Galaxy." Gonna be rich!

    May 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Petercha


      May 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Rick

      Then I'll take the Anky Way!

      May 31, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  64. Aardie

    I want to watch it from the restaurant at the end of the universe.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Daniel in Denver

      Beauty reference, Aardie! RIP Douglas Adams.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  65. Pinebelt Bob

    Time to update my will!

    May 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  66. Jeff

    It is my belief that everything that exists is part of an infinite cycle that has always been and always will be. In attempting to explain this, I believe there are 2 states that exist. These states are analogous to the binary system that comprises 100% of this computerized digital age. I am only comparing this with the 2 most basic binary digits, the 0 and the 1.

    To begin, the binary digit 0 represents the state of nothingness. Since the state of nothingness doesn't contain anything then this state can be infinite (i.e. an empty universe with no matter.) The binary digit 1 represents the opposite state of nothingness, which is a state of something-ness. If there wasn't an opposite state of nothingness then I wouldn't be sitting here typing this at this moment. Since there is a state of something-ness it must have also always existed, and will always exist.

    I believe that "time" starts at moment 0 in a continuous cycle when all matter known to exist has gravitated together to form it's next cycle. Since this cycle always has been and always will be then time only has meaning in the present cycle. As the matter in the universe contracts to a single mass ready to explode again to begin another cycle. At this point all matter has been reconverted to the state of something-ness exploding into a new universe. In this infinite cyclic theory then it doesn't matter how much time it takes for the universe to expand out, expend it's energy and be pulled back to reform the state of something-ness and begin it's cycle again. Maybe just another way to explain the Big Bang theory.

    Just my 2-bits so 6 billion years is nothing to infinity.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • karek40

      You can't get something from nothing, where did the matter come from to begin with. Also not enough mass to cause predicted collapse. Your theory is full of dark matter.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
      • Farscape

        @ karek40
        No scientific theory states matter came from nothing. You imply there was a time before matter; therefore it needs to ‘come from’ somewhere. Setting the question up so you can ‘disprove’ the concept is fail.

        May 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
      • bob

        yes you can, and hawkings radiation is proof of this. in a closed system virtual particles can spontaniously become real matter and hang around for as long as they would like.

        May 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • H Manuel Montes

      OK, Now what is 1 + 0=? This has been bugging me a long time.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • BigJohnnyThunderPants

      The "Big Crunch" idea has been around for a long time. The two possibilities are Big Crunch (gravity overcomes universe expanion) or Heat Death (expansion overcomes gravity, everything cools down and sits tight. forever.)

      May 31, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Rick

      Except that it is well known that all matter will NOT gravitate together eventually. The matter from our big bang is actually accelerating further and further apart forever. So much for your theory, sounded good till you got to that part. You'll have to come up with another reason for the next state of nothingness to come about.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Heffi

      "Well... I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie, but I changed my mind." – Charlie Brown

      May 31, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  67. Jules432


    May 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  68. BD

    Dr. Who will save us, or at least show up for the spectacle.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  69. flossmore

    Hate to tell some of you, but I've been to the Andromeda Galaxy ..... and it's way way over rated. The people there are very strange with their little heads and long skinny legs. And the food......the .last time I ordered out, I had to complain about the pizza....just not as good as on Earth. ......the crust is too thick and the sauce is too it all over my new white shirt. And the ride.....boy oh boy bring lots of's a long ride. The people there also can change visible reality at will, so watch what you wish for. Hope this helps....thanks, El Dar Con Giggidy.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Popcorn Papa

      Nice, very creative.

      Admiral Ackbar

      May 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  70. Josh

    Good luck to humanity surviving the next hundred years, let alone the next four billion.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Don K

      You said it!

      May 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Keel Hauler

      Heh, good point.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  71. Paul

    Oh...six BILLION years.....I was worried. For a minute I thought they said 6 million years. Whew!!!

    May 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  72. ronmexico99

    And Congress will still not have reached an agreement on anything . . . .

    May 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Keel Hauler

      Also, some of them will still be in office due to no term limits...

      May 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  73. JJ

    I knew this neighborhood wasn't safe anymore.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  74. Ykcyc

    Cheesus, they can not predict the weather for tomorrow or control thei own bawels, but have the balls to pretend they know what is going to happen in 6 billion years! How insane is that?!

    May 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Mike

      Because the number of unknowns in predicting the trajectory of galaxies through largely empty space after collecting 22 years worth of data are fewer than the number of unknowns in knowing with 100% certainty what a localized weather pattern in a tumultuous environment will look like.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
      • Ykcyc

        We have no way of knowing, with any degree of scientific certainty, if our whole known Universe is not just a tiny teeny spec in an infinite ocean of specs, inside some cosmic petri dish. In that sense, we are not much different from yeast, just before the fermentation process had reached 12% alcohol level. Be grateful, fulfilled and content in this moment. Enjoy your time in the Sun!

        May 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
      • Steve

        Thank you Mike!

        May 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
      • Ykcyc

        Collecting 22 years worth of data that is 2.5 million years old, my friend. A lot may have changed in that time, not to mention what can change in 6 billion years in this "static" universe. Perception is not the reality.

        June 1, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • matt

      if a US marine sniper can hit a target a mile away, i'm pretty sure scientists can calculate the path of 2 enormous galaxies...
      andromeda is 228,000 light years across how hard can it be for people to figure out that as it gets larger in the nightsky, its coming towards us?!?

      May 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
      • Patrick

        that made me LOL

        June 1, 2012 at 3:11 am |
    • duh

      who's gonna prove them wrong???

      May 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • T Ciccone

      It's not especially difficult considering the scales involved. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years wide, and is only about 2.6 million light years from Andromeda, so Andromeda is only 26 times further away than the width of our galaxy. This is nothing compared to the difficulty of landing a space probe on another planet, as the ratio of distance to the scale of the object is many orders of magnitude greater–yet NASA has routinely accomplished this.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
      • kastaway

        it's not so much a matter of scale but about the understanding of universal laws. we also know about DNA sequences but don't know what causes cancerous cells to grow (similar scales). Mike is right – using 22 years (if that) of observations from a single perspective to proclaim with 100% certainty what will happen in 4-6 billion years is senseless. Somehow scientists these days expect people to follow their ideas with blind faith. there used to be something called the scientific method where people understood that interpretation is part of the process of finding new explanations – aka theories (and they change with new knowledge/new perspective). If anyone thinks we can't possibly have more to learn about universal laws in the next 4 billion years, I would question their expertise as a scientist.

        May 31, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  75. my2commoncents

    The big bang was similar to a firework going off exploding in the sky with little suns going off in different directions. The difference is in the universe we will not keep going forever into oblivion and burn out. Our mass and gravitational pull will eventually cause us to join other galaxies creating a bigger mass and gravitational pull. Until eventually the universe is pulled back into one massive sun that under immense gravitational pressure will explode like a super-supernova, and a rebirth of the universe will have recycled itself.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Ralter

      Well, except for that whole Dark Energy problem we can't explain. The universe isn't just expanding still, it's expanding FASTER every day. It's sorta funny how we find out more and more about our reality as we go on... and just realized that there's even more we don't know because of it.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Lucy

      Utterly ridiculous.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Rick

      You are 100% wrong. Our universe is actually accelerating away from it's origin to infinity. It is a well known and proven fact. The mechanism is not fully understood I don't believe but it seems to have something to do with dark energy.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
      • John

        Rick. I read the article and it definitely said that for the first 8 billion or so years our two galaxies were headed AWAY from each other and only in the last 5 billion years have they began heading toward each other. Seems to me, a lot can change out there in the universe so to use terms like PROVE and 100% seems a bit, well, ignorant. We can really only tell what is currently happening and what we expect to happen barring changes caused by forces we not only cannot fully comprehend, but may not even be aware of yet.

        Just because somebody says something will "always" happen doesn't make it fact, however PROBABLE it may be.

        May 31, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  76. Sean

    time to pack up.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  77. Ned


    May 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Keel Hauler

      My God, you're right! AAAAHHHHHHH!

      May 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  78. Face Eater

    My house might be paid off by then

    May 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Keel Hauler

      Heh, mine won't.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  79. joe

    thats why we need to invest right now into deep space travel

    May 31, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Jim

      Well, it is 4 BILLION years away. We can afford to wait until tomorrow I'd say.

      June 4, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  80. Be prepaired

    How much can foods and water should I be hoarding? Should I book a seat on that new space passenger ship that is in the news or can I wait? Should I warn everyone else or is it, every person for themselves? Can I bring a playboy mag with me?

    May 31, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  81. Tom Cruise


    May 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  82. Bub

    When I look at the picture of that galaxy (even though it's not Andromeda), I can't help but think about how many millions, upon millions of lifeforms exist there. Amazing and so cool that life is not unique, and is actually so common and prevalent throughout the universe.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • RdWtNBlu

      How did you conclude that? We're spending billions trying to figure that out and you somehow just were able to give us the answer for free?! Yay, there is prevalent life everywhere because Bub said so!

      May 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
      • Rick

        Given that there are billions of planets and billions of galaxies in our universe alone simple statistics would indicate that if there is life on one there is a high likelihood there is life on others as well and zero evidence that there is not.

        May 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
      • RdWtNBlu

        Rick – I agree with you in principle, but we have not yet proven it. We are desperately trying to prove it and I think we will at some point and I am excited about the prospect of such discovery. At this point we have nothing. There are billions of stars in our universe, but the latest estimate is 400 million galaxies.

        May 31, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  83. ObjectiveOpinion

    Maybe this will be an opportunity to meet life from another planet without having to worry about the current speed limit of light. Even if face-to-face is not possible, perhaps communication will be possible. However, based on our brilliant track record of relations between people on this earth, I doubt we will last the 4 to 6 billion years necessary.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  84. jlaylor

    Darn! And I JUST washed my car!

    May 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  85. The Lich King

    And now we are one!

    May 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  86. Pete

    The picture of the galaxy is stated to be the Andromeda Galaxy. But it can't be. The Andromeda Galaxy is seen at much more of an angle from Earth. And the quality of the picture makes it appear the galaxy is small and far away since a picture of the Andromeda Galaxy, one of the brightest, easiest-to-see galaxies, would provide a much sharper image.
    Anyone know what galaxy this really is?

    May 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Bub


      May 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • arthurrr

      these scientists do not now what they are talking about, i guarantee you-they are in the dark. Just kids playing with telescopes and trying to get paid!!!!

      May 31, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
      • Cedar Rapids

        trolling or just dumb?

        May 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
      • Fred

        My guess... just dumb. These religious nut-jobs have no sense of humor... or intelligence for that matter.

        May 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Bob R

      It's certainly not Andromeda.Looks more like a slice of the Hubble Deep Field Photo.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • T Ciccone

      The "photo" is an illustration intended to show what the sky might look like from a nearby vantage point as the galaxies are merging. It's not showing any present-day conditions, so it shouldn't bear a strong resemblance to the Andromeda we see today.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
      • Pete

        They changed the photo after the story had been posted ten or fifteen minutes. The earlier photo was a grainy small galaxy on a fuzzy starry background.

        June 1, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  87. Cosmic

    As steve noted, wrong photo. Try this one.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  88. Larry

    Will that mark the end of the Snickers and Three Musketeers too?

    May 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • rtbrno65

      Yes. The Marathon Bar was the first of the three to go.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  89. Bob B

    I don't think I'll be around in 6 billion years. Our sun will be gone as we know it in about 4 billion years from what I hear, so will it matter? I do like to hear the theorys that they come out with though, it's breaks up all the gloom and doom news that they run all the time about what's happening on earth.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • GBGBGB

      Actually, every little atom of you will still be around, and every atom of you has been around for the first 8 billion years they mention. You may not feel like yourself, however.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  90. Marley

    In before the JESUS freaks! JESUS will return to save us! LOL

    May 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Marley

      Damn @MarcNJ! You ruined my moment! LOL

      May 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
      • MarcNJ

        I do what I can. lol

        May 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  91. MarcNJ

    Gawd will save us. Praise Jeebus.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  92. FraidyCat

    our fate? Not mine. I plan on checking out before then.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Josh

      Not me. I plan to watch it. On CNN, live, of course.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  93. Mike

    That picture is not the Andromeda Galaxy..geez how hard is it to get that correct.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  94. James

    The picture at the top of this article is not the Andromeda Galaxy, despite what the picture's caption claims.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Gabe

      right, Andromeda is much more impressive

      May 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  95. pointless1

    Oh noooooooosss

    May 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  96. Anafiel

    So, how does this jive with the christian's "heaven on earth" theory?

    May 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • JJC

      Christians don't have theories. They simply use their gut. "Gee, I'm really special, so I cannot cease to exist! Hence, there is a life after death!"

      May 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  97. steve

    WRONG PHOTO – That is not the Andromeda Galaxy.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Josh

      Apparently, that's the pic NASA/ESA give them, for Andromeda.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  98. TM

    If Andromeda and Milky Way were first moving away from each other, what changed to have them colliding? Are all galaxies moving at the same rate or are all of matter speeding up (expanding universe) at different rates.

    Then there is the whole dark energy/dark matter. Too many questions to begin. My layman's thought is that dark {insert name} moves faster than light and is the lead wave from the big bang center pulling our slower not-so-dark matter along.

    I read enough to be dangerous but not enough to know anything.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Mike

      The andromeda galaxy is relatively close to us so our mutual gravity is attracting us to one another. Most galaxies are moving away but some are close enough to creates groups.

      May 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
      • TM

        Does not make sense unless we or Andromeda added mass 8M years ago. I think gravity worked the same prior to that so something had to change especially if we are expanding away from other galaxies. Condensation of matter into dense bodies does not seems it since the total mass would be the same.

        Did Andromeda collide with another galaxy?

        May 31, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Rick

      Consider this TM. If you shoot something in the air it needs a certain velocity to break free of the earth gravity. If not it falls back, yet originally it was in fact moving away. This may be what's happening between us and Andromeda. We did not reach escape velocity. Also, it does appear that some parts of our universe do move at varying speeds so some parts can collide. But over all, as a mass, the universe is accelerating apart to infinity.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
      • Justin

        I think by your definition there, the universe is in a continual state of expansion and contraction. Since all matter is connected through gravity it's like a ball on a rubberband, no matter how hard you hit it and how far it goes, eventually it will use up it's energy and begin coming back to the paddle. Creating bangs and expansions forever and ever.

        The universe has an outer edge though, and if that's the case what's beyond?

        June 1, 2012 at 3:05 am |
    • Guido Sarducci

      HAS to be Galactic Road Rage. We just don't know which galaxy flipped off the other after passing 180 billion years ago.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
      • kastaway

        or maybe they just needed to clear the way for a new hyperspace bypass

        May 31, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
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