“Beautiful as it is, our Universe is constantly evolving, often through violent events like the Milky Way’s forthcoming collision with the Large Magellanic Cloud,” said Carlos Frenk, Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham. “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 center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, reacts by emitting jets of extremely bright energetic radiation.”
“The spiral shape of the magnetic field channels the gas into an orbit around the black hole,” said Darren Dowell, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, principal investigator for the HAWC+ instrument, and lead author of the study about Milky Way’s central black hole. “This could explain why our black hole is quiet while others are active.”
“While two billion years is an extremely long time compared to a human lifetime, it is a very short time on cosmic timescales,” said astrophysicist Marius Cautun, with Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology. “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.”
These clouds of stars called the Small Magellanic Cloud and the Large Magellanic Cloud, or SMC and LMC are satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. Using the newly released data from a new, powerful space telescope, University of Michigan astronomers have discovered that the southeast region, or “Wing,” of the Small Magellanic Cloud is moving away from the main body of that dwarf galaxy, providing the first unambiguous evidence that the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds recently collided.