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A typical galaxy collision can last hundreds of millions of years, during which time the gravity from both galaxies can distort their original shape and cause a wave of increased star formation.
Today, galactic collisions are quite rare, yet early in the universe's history, they were much more common. Because the universe is expanding, galaxies were closer together in the past, and thus galaxy collisions happened more frequently.
A galactic collision almost always happens between two spiral galaxies. As they approach one another, their gravity starts to pull on the other galaxy. This will cause the spiral arms of both galaxies to stretch, distorting their overall shape. Yet due to the vast distances between individual stars, it's very unlikely that during a galactic collision any stars would actually collide. If the Milky Way were to collide with the Andromeda Galaxy--which will likely happen in the next few billion years-- it's highly unlikely another star would disturb our solar system.
On the other hand, galactic collisions can create quite a show on a large scale. As both galaxies approach one another, their gravity pulls on the other. This can create tidal forces that can heat up nebulae within the galaxies, leading to star formation. As I mentioned earlier, it's highly unlikely any stars will collide while two galaxies merge, however, it's very likely that nebulae will collide because they are much larger. The collision of nebulae can also cause an increase in star formation, leading to a phase called a starburst phase.
Image credit: NASA .
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