It’s very easy to forget that there is no such thing as “standing still”. Sure, we can choose not to go anywhere at any given moment, but that lack of motion is relative only to the patch of ground we may be standing on. Though we may not be actively moving, the Earth is spinning at about 1,000 mph.
Also, as we know, the Earth isn’t standing still, it’s orbiting the Sun at just over 67,000 mph.
You may have heard the expression that “we may never pass this way again”. It’s true.
Everything in the Universe is moving in some way or another, and even whole galaxies are in constant motion. And even though the Universe is mostly empty space, collisions can and do happen.
In fact, we’re headed for a rather large collision right now.
Ok, so maybe it won’t be a collision so much as a dramatic and somewhat catastrophic merger, but the Milky Way galaxy and Andromeda, the nearest spiral galaxy, are going to become one – about 4 billion years from now.
When the time comes, it’s unlikely any stars from our galaxy will impact any Andromedan stars just based on the distances between them, which is why they’ll most likely just come together to form one large elliptical galaxy. Scientists even believe that a 3rd galaxy, M33, may even begin to orbit the resulting galaxy, though it’s possible that it also will be absorbed, meaning that the 3 largest galaxies in our Local Group would become one.
So what will happen to our solar system when the time comes?
It appears most likely that the Sun and its planets will end up in a higher orbit of the new galactic core than it has now, but there’s also a chance that our solar system could be ejected altogether and begin to drift away on its own.
However, there’s no reason for us to be concerned.
The merger will take place so far in the future that humans as we are now won’t exist – we will either have evolved into something completely unknown, we will have moved beyond the Earth, or we will have long since become extinct.
That may sound bleak, but keep in mind that the Universe is constantly changing. Maybe not very quickly, but nothing stays the same forever.
For now, though, all we have is educated speculation.
What do you think will be the end result?