Set Phasers To Stun: NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory Spots The 'Star Trek' USS Enterprise In Colorful Merging Galaxy Cluster

Some people like to look at clouds and point out which ones look like a face. Sometimes NASA does the same thing – on a much bigger scale. After spotting X-ray and radio waves coming from Abell 1033, a collection of colliding galaxy clusters, NASA decided that it looked remarkably like the Enterprise from Star Trek. Of course they did, those big nerds.

If you thought the Milky Way was massive (it’s roughly 100,000 light-years across), read NASA’s description of a galaxy cluster: “Galaxy clusters – cosmic structures containing hundreds or even thousands of galaxies – are the largest objects in the Universe held together by gravity. Multi-million-degree gas fills the space in between the individual galaxies. The mass of the hot gas is about six times greater than that of all the galaxies combined.”

Yeah, so: Abell 1033 is a collision between two galaxy clusters – and the radiation and optical signals from these massive cosmic structures just happened to form something that looks like (arguably) the single most famous starship in science fiction. NASA claims it’s just another case of galactic pareidolia, a phenomenon in which humans pick out familiar shapes from random patterns. That hasn’t stopped them from referring to the relevant areas of the collision as the “starship-shaped object” or referring to another part of it as “the stardrive section.” (Can you blame them?)

Opening quote

“In terms of astrophysical research, a detailed study of the image shows that the energy of the electrons in the ‘saucer section’ and neck of the starship-shaped radio emission in Abell 1033 is higher than that found in the stardrive section towards the lower left.”

Closing quote

Is this all a striking coincidence? Probably, but we like to think the universe is making a little shout-out to Gene Roddenberry. Sure, we already named some geographic features on Pluto after Spock, Kirk, and Uhuru, but two colliding galaxy clusters seems like a much more fitting tribute to boldly go where no man has gone before.

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