Humanity's understanding of physics today might suggest that traveling faster than light is impossible, but researchers on Earth can still observe occurring in places that are too far away to ever really be visited (and generally just like what is seen in the past). One of them is a galaxy collision which, at least from the point of view of our planet, looks very much like a craft that occurs where no human has ever existed before.
NASA released a composite image above the Abell 1033 galaxy cluster of about 1.62 billion light years this week, showing gas clumps that appear to be arranged in a form Star TrekUSS Enterprise. NASA wrote that the image was taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, an X-ray telescope that detects superheated gases, and Low-Frequency Array, which detects radio emissions.
Images may look calm, but this is the result of cosmic phenomena that release tremendous amounts of energy. Galaxy clusters are collections of galaxies which are the largest entities known to be held together by gravitational forces, which contain the galaxy itself and much larger superheated gases. Per NASA, Abell 1033 is actually two groups of galaxies that are in the process of throwing each other, producing "waves of turbulence and shock." NASA added that the two groups interacted with supermassive black holes, producing high-speed particle jets. which appears as radio emissions:
In Abell 1033, collisions have interacted with other energetic cosmic processes – the production of high-speed particle jets by matter that rotates into supermassive black holes, in this case located in a galaxy in one cluster. These jets are expressed by radiating radios to the left and right sides of the image. Radio emissions are produced by electrons that revolve around magnetic field lines, a process called synchrotron emissions.
The electrons in the jet travel very close to the speed of light. When the galaxy and its black hole move to the bottom of the image, the jet on the right slows down when it hits a hot gas in another galaxy cluster. The jet on the left doesn't slow down because it finds a much hotter gas, giving it a distorted appearance for jets, rather than a straight line that is usually seen.
NASA added that radio emissions originating from clusters would normally lose a lot of their energy when emanating, becoming undetectable, though "very broad radio emissions observed in Abell 1033, stretching more than about 500,000 light years, imply that energetic electrons are present in amounts bigger and with higher energy than previously thought ":
Other sources of radio emissions in the image next to star-shaped objects are short jets from other galaxies (labeled "short jets") and "phoenix radios" which consist of clouds of electrons which fade in radio emissions but are then refreshed when the shock wave solidifies cloud. This causes the clouds to once again shine on radio frequency, as we reported in 2015.
Researchers with Leiden University, the Radio Astronomy Institute, the University of Hamburg, and the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics have published their findings in Science Progress.