Meet Andromeda, the galaxy on a crash-course with the Milky Way

April 7, 2015, 1 p.m.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the cup-of-sugar neighbor to the Milky Way. It is the closest large spiral galaxy to our own and one of the few we can see with the naked eye when looking up into the night sky. The view is going to get even better.

A few years ago, scientists figured not just that the Andromeda Galaxy is headed our way but also how fast it is coming toward us. They calculated its speed at about 68 miles per second. That puts it at colliding with the Milky way in, oh, about 4.5 billion years. So in other words, no need to freak out any time soon. But when it happens, it's going to be pretty phenomenal.

According to Space.com, "Over time, the huge galactic smashup will create an entirely new hybrid galaxy, one likely bearing an elliptical shape rather than the Milky Way's trademark spiral-armed disk. And the collision will change our night sky dramatically. If any humans are still around 3.75 billion years from now, they'll see Andromeda fill their field of view as it sidles up next to our own Milky Way. For the next few billion years after that, stargazers will be spellbound by the merger, which will trigger intense bouts of star formation."

This photo of the galaxy was created by Martin Young using 44 long-exposure images. However, if you want to have an even more detailed view, you can enjoy this 4.3 gigapixel image created by NASA.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.