Galaxies Locked In Billion-Year-Long Battle Create 'Cosmic River Of Blood'

For the first time ever, a violent 'David and Goliath' battle between two galaxies that's been leaving a "cosmic river of blood" has been mapped in detail by scientists.

The Large and Small Magellanic clouds, which are both dwarf galaxies, have been locked in a bloody battle for billions of years, but things have "really intensified" over the last one hundred to hundred million years or so.

A study led by the Australian National University in Canberra has been studying this cosmic battle over the last few years.

Lead researcher Dr Dougal Mackey told 10 daily how the larger of the two galaxies, which is about a tenth of the size of our own Milky Way, has been "beating up" the smaller one, which is about one fifth of the size.

"The big one is stripping all the hydrogen gas out of the smaller one, flinging it away from the two systems," he said.

The map shows the larger galaxy (left) warping the smaller galaxy (right), while the dust of their battles floats away. Photo: Dr Dougal Mackey / Supplied.

Instead of floating off into space, this gas -- which is essentially the life blood for new galaxies -- is being drawn into orbit around our own galaxy.

"That's the cosmic river of blood," explained Mackey. "It's creating a big stream of gas that stretches around our galaxy."

It's not just the Small Cloud that's suffering the indignity of having pieces of itself flung about the universe.

The Large Cloud has "definitely not come away unscathed," said Mackay, adding "the side closest to the Small Magellanic Cloud is heavily warped and pruned, and other parts of its outskirts show major distortions."

The Large Magellanic Cloud is one of the most photographed galaxies, and is visible to the naked eye. Photo: NASA / Getty.

Eventually, the Large Cloud will completely consume the Small Cloud, which is how scientists believe our own galaxy reached its own, much larger, size.

But that won't happen for another billion years or so, said Mackay.

"The evidence is that the Small Cloud really seems to be in the first stages of falling apart," he told 10 daily.

"It's coming off a lot worse. And within the next billion years or so, it will be destroyed."

Spaceontact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

Lead photo: Getty