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In the night sky: Orion
In the night sky: Orion

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3.2.2 Merging galaxies

An image of the night sky, showing the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.
Figure 9 The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, as seen from New South Wales, Australia.

The shapes of galaxies are influenced by their neighbours: larger galaxies can merge with smaller ones and smaller ones can merge with each other.

The Milky Way is in the process of engulfing the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two irregular galaxies that can be seen in the night sky in the southern hemisphere, although the merger won’t be complete for another three billion years.

Because everything in space is moving, occasionally galaxies collide. Find out more in the next section.