What Night Sky Photographs Will Look Like Over the Next 7 Billion Years

NASA astronomers announced today that they are certain that our galaxy is on an unavoidable collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest spiral galaxy to us. Don’t worry though, it won’t be happening for another 3.5 billion years or so. What’s interesting is that the collision will drastically change what our night sky looks like, and the astronomers released a series of photo illustrations showing what future astrophotographers will be shooting when they point their cameras at the heavens.

Just for reference, here’s what the night sky currently looks like:

In about 3.75 billion years, Andromeda will be close enough to us that it begins to dominate the night sky:

As the galaxies collide, the sky will be filled with “star fireworks” — the formation of new stars:

In 4 billion years, the two galaxies will begin warping one another, causing them to have a funhouse mirror look in the sky:

At about 7 billion years, things will begin settling down. The two galaxies will form a new giant elliptical galaxy, with a single bright core filling up our nighttime sky:

(via HubbleSite)

Image credits: Photo illustrations by NASA, ESA

  • Joey Duncan

    It would be awesome if the sky looked like that, I realize it can’t otherwise “planets” wouldn’t have happened the way they did…. but at least in California you can’t see any color in the milkyway if you can see it at all (a line of stars appears) kinda a little black and white.. :-P

  • John Stock

    Why is the final core very diffuse and even with no texture?

  • mythbuster

    And if they all are wrong nobody is going to complain.
    By the way, I bet in year 2185 Godzilla is going to dominate the Earth, humans will be their slaves and Canon finally will decide to make a digital mirrorless.

  • baylf

    Nobody will ever see that view or any other from earth in 7 billion years. Our planet will have been swallowed by our sun by that time.

  • Guest

    Odd that the mountains don’t erode.

  • Guest

    Odd that the mountains don’t erode.

  • Guest

    Odd that the mountains don’t erode.

  • Dave

     These are some good mountains.

  • will hall

     I believe that is estimated to be in about 5 billion years that our sun enters the red giant stage, so all but the last image would potentially be visible

  • Robert

    I’m starting a timelapse right now for this event!  I hope my intervalometer battery holds up!?!

  • Greg

     They just don’t make mountains like they used to…

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  • David Hodge

     The difference is that NASA has run tests and studys to come up with the math and images that give credence to this theory…while history may not care if they where wrong, it will rember NASA and all the work.

    your theory will be forgotten by the end of the day, history will never care what you said in this comment

  • muitosabao

    Wow, way to show some ignorance and disrespect for science, and the people who do it. i wish you had 1% of the intelligence these people have, if only to have a tiny clue of how actually they come to these conclusions you find as far fetched as godzilla dominating the earth.


  • DigDaFig

    You have to admit thats some really cool stuff. Wow.

  • Zyggy

    Unfortunately, It’s not going to look anything like that from Earth. Most likely it will be less visible than the Milky way currently is, simply because things are going to be throw around so much. Our Solar system, in most models, is expected to be in one of the massive arms stretching between the 2 galaxies, or alternately even thrown out of the galaxy merger altogether.

    From the original: “NOTE: These illustrations depict the view from about
    25,000 light-years away from the center of the Milky Way. The future
    view from our solar system will most likely be markedly different,
    depending on how the Sun’s orbit within the galaxy changes during the

  • Ralph Hightower

    Okay, I think it’s pretty certain that we don’t have to worry about the Y5B problem anymore.

  • mythbuster

    NASA don´t own the monopoly of science and truth nor they believe so. Only you fanatic nazi without a sense of humour believe NASA is infallible. By the way, my IQ is 139, speak Chinese, English, Spanish and French, got a PhD in Geography and a bachelor degree in Engineering… and you?

  • Phorat Sagdiyev

     Your IQ is only 139? You’re practically a cretin!

  • tech84

    yeah I thought about that too, I thought in that amount of time the sun would have gobbled up earth so that view would somewhat be impossible.

  • tech84

    yeah I thought about that too, I thought in that amount of time the sun would have gobbled up earth so that view would somewhat be impossible.

  • smooing

    wow a Phd in geography and an engineering degree… so your 10% of the current population… so called climate change warriors… bet you everyone is criticising your internationally recognised research on the web too huh…
    139… lol why would you admit that your just considered smart, shame you could not have gotten 1 extra point to bump you into the genius category, what a douche…

    and you speak 5 languages you just cant recognise cuntonese

  • muitosabao

    great for you! too bad that with such an impressive curriculum, and in the face of such exciting science that post was the best you could come up with.

  • Zayev

    You guys are forgetting the main point here… Canon will never make a mirrorless DSLR.

  • Annique

    Sucks that we probably won’t be around by then, because that’s one heck of a sky.

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  • Albin Roussel

    I liked your comment, shame on the others for the lack of humour.

  • Sean

    Ouch, Our galaxy will collide with Andromeda Galaxy? Well, I think bruce willis will save us, no problem then ^^.

  • Demosisq27

    Unfortunately for you, you failed your english sections.  NASA “don’t own” should be “NASA (do not have a) monopoly on science and truth, nor (do) they believe that they do”  
    I am not sure why you had to put in your qualifications into this as your knowledge was not questioned at this time.

    Your humor was not found on this subject.  Either that or you did not bring it across correctly for the scientific mind.  Watch “Big Bang Theory” and maybe you can find some jokes that the highly intellectual people may find funny, even if it escapes my or your grasp of humor and science.

    BUT….  The main point here is that we should be looking at this as science and for the beauty of the universe.

  • Geocities

    WARNING: web 1.0 ahead!

  • Jeremy Keller

    Is our galaxy really on a collision course? What about the perpendicular movement? I believe from what I was told back in 2005, the perpendicular movement of Andromeda in relation to the Milky Way cannot be measured. I believe this is because Andromeda’s motion relative to the Milky Way has to be measured by calculating the Doppler shift of the light being emitted from Andromeda’s stars.

    The BBC website refers to me as having always had a fascination with space and technology and I am anxious to bring my weblinks to everyone’s attention. Simply visit Google and type in KELLER BBC, as you should see JEREMY KELLER BBC appear on the screen. You should also be able to look me up on Google by searching for:

    lunar mountaineering

    lunar night earthlight

    Earth shimmering like sapphire

    wreck of Luna 2

    craters resembling dividing cells

    night half facing Saturn

    dent resistant bodywork

    motionizing pictures

    motionizing paintings

  • Caleb Faulkner

    Agreed. I liked your comment too. I wish more people had a sense of humor and actually could laugh at jokes posted online, rather than arguing about everything single little thing that is said. There’s enough issues with this planet, people need to stop taking for granted the good moments.

  • Jaymz423

    I saw your warning, but clicked anyway. The horror…the horror…

  • Goldman60


  • Mike P

    Mythbuster: I agree with your sentiment, but I have to say– you write like you have an IQ of 89.

  • Christopher

    Yet can’t master English grammer. ^

  • Allen MacCannell

    It looks like, in 7 billion years, I’m going to have trouble sleeping with all that light produced by the galaxy merger.

    I better start planning to buy blackout curtains or something.

  • Annique

    I’m already used to it, I’ve got a street lantern SMACK in front of my bedroom window. And it’s one of those floor-to-ceiling ones. Like, it’s 6 feet away from it. Fortunately the curtains that came with the place were thick and in my preferred colour, or I would not sleep either.

  • Brian Collinson

    Probably going to need to set a fairly large interval there, Robert. I would definitely recommend splurging, and going with the premium batteries on this one…

  • kate zee

    I’d rather see a new superspiral galaxy than the elliptical one described here.

  • Mats ErdLing

    isn’t it very unlikely that Earth will even exist in 7 billion years (due to the sun only having 4-5 billion years before it will ‘kick the bucket’, which includes swelling to a ‘red giant’ so big that it envelops Earth)?

  • rudeboi

    We’ll just have to take his word for it.