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?)
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.