A giant invisible galaxy is colliding with our Milky Way, astronomers have discovered.
It is a vast cloud of hydrogen containing enough matter to make one hundred million suns – but has failed to produce any stars at all.
The presence of the dark blob was first detected last year. But only now has it been identified as a giant galaxy.
Calculations by astronomers at Sydney, Australia, show that the object, called Smith’s Cloud, is 100 times bigger than thought.
The cosmic crash is not a threat to stars in our own bigger galaxy but its gravitational pull will distort the shape of the Milky Way over millions of years.
The astronomers says the invisible galaxy’s trajectory suggests that it has already crashed through our galaxy’s disk before, around 70 million years ago, New Scientist reports online.
Scientists believe our cosmic neighbourhood may be teeming with hundreds more dark galaxies that have not yet been discovered.
• Discover space for yourself and do fun science with a telescope. Here is Skymania’s advice on how to choose a telescope. We also have a guide to the different types of telescope available.