The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a nearby galaxy that orbits the Milky Way, is being ripped apart from the inside out.
The satellite galaxy, en route to collide with the Milky Way in roughly 2.5 billion years, is in a particularly active period of star formation, which in turn created a massive burst of cosmic rays, Space.com reports. Though the LMC is currently holding itself together, at some point the bizarre turbulence will likely tear away entire chunks of the galaxy.
Those cosmic rays, given off by short-lived stars that grow and die during the star formation event, strike the gas in the LMC and heat it to the point that it’s too energetic to be contained by the galaxy’s gravity, according to Space.com.
But because the LMC is barreling so rapidly toward the Milky Way, it’s become so heavily pressurized that the heated gas can’t escape, according to yet-unpublished simulations run by a team of astronomers from the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In the distant future, the pressure will dissipate and the LMC may begin to blow itself apart as cosmic rays bombard it from within, Space.com reports.
At that point, it may transform from a satellite galaxy to a long trail of cosmic wreckage.
READ MORE: Cosmic Rays Are Starting to Tear a Milky Way Satellite Galaxy Apart [Space.com]
More on galaxies: Astrophysicists Warn That Entire Galaxies “Are Being Killed”