In nature, processes rarely ever look a process. When you see a mountain, it doesn’t look like it, but that is two tectonic plates smashing into each other. Though, it doesn’t much look like it. The moon doesn’t look like it’s flying around the earth faster than you can imagine, but it is. The earth doesn’t even seem to be rotating in your immediate experience; you have to wait several hours to see the effects of it.
There is an enormous amount of space out there in the universe, but, thanks to gravity, sometimes galaxies smash into one another. It is one of the rare instances where you get to see the immensely slow processes of nature seem to actually be in the midst of happening. Above is a collection of images from Hubble of colliding galaxies. They’re quite remarkable–like watching a car crash frozen in time.
Future inhabitants of our galaxy will be able to see something like this every night. With the Andromeda headed toward us, we will merge into a larger galaxy sometime in the much distant future. But don’t mourn the species in that future galaxy, or the current colliding galaxies; the distance between stars is so great, that anyone living on a planet at that time should be safe from a collision with another solar system.
Check out this simulation from ICRAR of the collision between us and our neighbor galaxy.