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The Space.com headline Hubble Telescope Spots Two Galaxies in a Doomed (but Dazzling) Dance; The galaxies will ultimately crash into each other was probably overstated as seems to be policy in some popular press sites. The galaxies are not "doomed". However the paragraph below is interesting:

Our Milky Way, for example, is on an inevitable collision course with the neighboring behemoth galaxy — Andromeda. Individual star systems like ours will likely be largely undisrupted, but distant observers will see the two galaxies gradually become one in some four billion years. ESA nicknames this new merged galaxy "Milkomeda."

Question: How much more is predicted now about the "upcoming" collision and possible merger of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies than has already been described in this answer's citation of a 2012 Astrobites review The Fate of the Milky Way? What measurements (if any) have contributed to this additional level of prediction?

The current data could be improved by future additional HST observations. Also, soon it will be possible to compare them with independent water maser measurements for individual sources in M31 (see this Letter), which might allow measurement of other cool effects, such as the M31 proper motion rotation, and the increase in Andromeda’s apparent size due to its motion towards us.

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Since the second data release (DR2) of the European Space Agency's Gaia mission there has been a revolution in astrometry, including measuring the motion of the Andromeda Galaxy.

On February this year van der Marel et al (also in ArXiv) published interesting results on that matter by using Gaia's DR2 measurements. The results reveal that the collision is going to happen 600 million years later than the previous estimate (in 4.5 Gyr instead of 3.9 Gyr). Also Andromeda appears to have more tangential motion than previously thought and thus "the galaxy is likely to deliver more of a glancing blow to the Milky Way than a head-on collision".

Also interesting, M33 (Triangulum galaxy) is going to make its first infall towards Andromeda and might interact gravitationally quite a lot with it. The absence of stellar streams between Triangulum and Andromeda show that this is the first time they are going to meet each other.

Thanks to Gaia the measurements are now so precise that for the first time we are able to notice even the minute rotation of both Triangulum and Andromeda galaxies astrometrically (and not only by using doppler shifts).

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, thank you! I've added a link to the ArXiv version so that everybody can see the compelling figures (e.g. Figs 2 and 3) and read the full paper. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Aug 19 at 23:31

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