Located about 1.6 billion years away is a colliding galaxy cluster, officially labeled Abell 1033.
A new image shared by NASA shows a gaseous formation that looks strikingly like the spaceship USS Enterprise from the popular sci-fi series Star Trek, concealed in the midst of the merging galaxy clusters.
Describing these clusters as the “largest objects in the Universe held together by gravity,” NASA explains that they are made up of multiple galaxies that can run in the thousands, with gases millions of degrees hot filling the space between the individual galaxies.
As optical telescopes are incapable of spotting this superheated mass of gas, six times more than the combined mass of all the galaxies in the cluster, NASA combined x-ray images from its Chandra X-ray Observatory with “other types of light, such as radio waves” to create a composite image of the clusters.
X-Rays from Chandra depicted in purple, radio emissions from the LOFAR network of telescopes in the Netherlands shown in blue, as well as optical data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) were combined to create this awe-inspiring image of Abell 1033, complete with USS Enterprise cocooned inside it.
Also, with the help of the x-ray and radio data at their disposal, scientists were able to determine that Abell 1033 actually comprises “two galaxy clusters in the process of colliding.”
The cosmic event is not as serene as depicted in the image – far from it, in fact.
NASA says that “this extraordinarily energetic event, happening from the top to the bottom in the image, has produced turbulence and shock waves, similar to sonic booms produced by a plane moving faster than the speed of sound.”
Scientists have also been able to determine that the collision happening in Abell 1033 has interacted with another “energetic cosmic process” that occurs as result of jets of high-speed particles produced by swirling matter getting sucked into a “supermassive black hole.”
In the case of Abell 1033, the so-called cosmic process is happening in a galaxy in one of the two clusters, seen as radio emission to the left and right sides of the image.
“The radio emission is produced by electrons spiralling around magnetic field lines, a process called synchrotron emission,” explains NASA.
“The electrons in the jets are traveling at very close to the speed of light,” says the space agency.
“As the galaxy and its black hole moved toward the lower part of the image, the jet on the right slowed down as it crashed into hot gas in the other galaxy cluster,” giving it a typical straight line appearance as is expected in such a scenario,
The distorted appearance of the jet on the left of the image, on the other hand, is attributed to the fact that the electrons in the jet did not slow down because it encountered gas that was by far less hot.
Explaining the Enterprise-shaped wisps of gas in the colliding clusters, NASA says it’s an example of a psychological phenomenon called “pareidolia, where familiar shapes and patterns are seen in otherwise random data.”
While on the subject of pareidolia, NASA recently shared some images that show what appears to be a dolphin-like figure, apparently swimming in Jupiter’s clouds.
They were visually-enhanced versions of raw pictures captured by the probe – thanks to the skills of well-known visual artist Seán Doran, who along with fellow image processor Brian Swift made the incredibly striking images a reality.
Another example of pareidolia appeared in March 2016 when NASA shared a raw image captured by one of Curiosity rover’s left navigation camera, clearly showing a fish-like formation on the surface of Mars.
Although the shape in the image was nothing but a piece of Martian rock that looked like a fish, some over-enthusiastic believers in UFOs and extraterrestrial life forms deemed it as a vindication of their claim.
One such person was Scott C Waring who claimed in his blog “UFO Sightings Daily” that the rock was, in fact, the fossilized remains of a fish – a “petrified fish” – that he said was about half a meter long, about the same size as a bass or a small salmon.
Again, in February this year, NASA released images of a pair of galaxies that looked uncannily like a galactic penguin guarding a galactic egg; the agency aptly nicknamed it “the Penguin and the Egg.”
Officially, the two galaxies are collectively known as Arp 142; however, they do have their individual identifications, too – the “Penguin” part of the duo formally referred to as NGC 2936 and the “Egg” as NGC 293.
According to NASA, Penguin probably originated as a spiral galaxy that got distorted over time by the Egg’s gravitational forces acting on it.
The Egg, on the other hand, is distinctly different in appearance and the greenish glow it exudes is characteristic of a collection of much older stars.
Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO)
Launched in July 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is sensitive enough to detect X-ray sources 100 times fainter than what its predecessors could manage – thanks to the high angular resolution of its mirrors.
Space telescopes make a whole lot of sense as Earth-based telescopes are rendered ineffective by the atmosphere, as it filters out almost all of the incoming x-rays from space.
Previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), Chandra is in a 64-hour orbit of Earth and has been at it for nearly two decades, and counting.
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, while the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.
The Low-Frequency Array or LOFAR is a vast network of telescopes across 48 stations consisting of a huge array of omnidirectional antennas.
As many as forty of these stations are in the Netherlands, with five stations in Germany and one each in the U.K, Ireland, France and Sweden.
Unlike most array antennas, LOFAR does not combine the signals from different cameras in real time.
In fact, the signals are first digitalized before being relayed to a digital processor, where software enables them to emulate a regular antenna.
Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)
Named after the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation – in honor of the foundation’s significant funding contribution – the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is an important “multi-spectral imaging and spectroscopic redshift survey using a dedicated 2.5-m wide-angle optical telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, United States. (Wikipedia)
“The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has created the most detailed three-dimensional maps of the Universe ever made, with deep multi-color images of one third of the sky, and spectra for more than three million astronomical objects,” claims the SDSS website.
A Quick Look at Abell 1033