THURSDAY: When Galaxies Collide

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In what might well be a preview of our distant future, two galaxies called the Antennae are colliding in a brilliant fireworks show of star formation and star destruction.

As gravitational fields interact, merging hydrogen clouds are compressed into dense spheres, each churning with thermonuclear energy: bright-blue baby stars. This cosmic crash, spotted by the Hubble telescope, is making them by the millions.

Some astronomers think the spectacular show is also our destiny. The Milky Way is on a collision course with nearby Andromeda; impact is due in about 5 billion years. Don't worry, though by that time Earth will be about as inhabitable as a used briquette.

So enjoy these pictures while you can.