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In a few billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda will collide. Chances are, there won't be many spectacular stellar collisions, and there's a pretty good chance that the Solar system (and most other stellar systems) won't be flung out into deep space, or be torn apart by incoming stars. But what about on a larger scale?

The product of the collision - dubbed "Milkomeda" - will be an elliptical galaxy, unlike the Milky Way and Andromeda, which are both spiral galaxies. My question is this:

How will the structure of the spiral arms be effectively destroyed by the collision? What mechanisms will cause them to coalesce, and what structures will take their place?

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It indeed appears the Andromeda galaxy (M31) and The Milky Way (MW) are en route to a collision. This will lead to a merger of the two galaxies forming an elliptical galaxy. The flattened disc structure of M31 and MW comes about because their gas dissipated energy but conserved momentum: a disc is the minimum energy state at given angular momentum. The gas in the disc then forms stars, which are more or less on the same orbit as the gas, i.e. circling the respective galaxies. A disc galaxy is dynamically cold, i.e. the speed of the mean motion of the star around the galaxy is much larger than their random motions.

The merger destroys all these structures and replaces them with a much smoother and dynamically hot structure, when the density is roughly constant on (concentric) triaxial ellipsoids. There are several types of stellar orbits in such galaxies, but most important are the so-called box orbits, when the stars oscillate in a large box-like volume and have no preferred mean direction of motion. In the early phases, the elliptical galaxy will have some temporary structures (so-called shells), which are remnants of the merger process itself.

The gas in M31 and MW will most likely be swept into the inner parts of the elliptical where it may form many new stars and contribute to the feeding of the AGN which emerges from the coalescence of the two supermassive black holes of M31 and MW. But energy fed back from the new formed stars via supernovae and stellar winds as well as from the AGN will drive the remaining gas out of the elliptical galaxy, leaving it "red and dead", i.e. without star formation and young blue stars.

The merger of M31 and MW will hardly increase the already neglible rate of stellar collisions. Given the vastness of galaxies compared to the size of stars, such collisions are extremely unlikely. The only places where such collisions occur are the very dense cores of globular clusters.

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In a few billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda will collide.

About 5 billion years, but it will take more than a thousand years for the galaxies to overlap.

Chances are, there won't be any spectacular stellar collisions

If the cores of the 2 galaxies collide, I would think it to be very likely that star systems will be effected and the central black holes to join.

The product of the collision will be an elliptical galaxy

It may take a few million years for the stars to find stability in their new orbits. After a few billion years more, there might be spiral arms again.

How will the structure of the spiral arms be effectively destroyed by the collision? What mechanisms will cause them to coalesce, and what structures will take their place?

When the galaxies approach together, gravity will effect the orbits of the stars. Since momentum needs to be conserved, the orbit of most of the stars will be changed radically. The different orbits will hide the spiral arms.

Now that I have thought more about it, it is very likely that a few stars will collide, maybe it will take a few billion years.

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