NASA sees Star Trek's USS Enterprise in gaseous space collision

NASA's Chandra telescope boldly spotted a sci-fi icon in the merger of two galaxy clusters.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The blue structure to the left resembles the Enterprise. 

X-ray: NASA/CXC/Leiden Univ./F. de Gasperin et al; Optical: SDSS; Radio: LOFAR/ASTRON, NCRA/TIFR/GMRT

We know the folks at NASA are Star Trek fans, so it's understandable that the Chandra X-ray Observatory team is seeing visions of the USS Enterprise in an exotic cosmic formation. 


NASA also shared this annotated version of the Abell 1033 image. 

X-ray: NASA/CXC/Leiden Univ./F. de Gasperin et al; Optical: SDSS; Radio: LOFAR/ASTRON, NCRA/TIFR/GMRT

NASA shared the new image of a galaxy cluster collision on Thursday and called out its "uncanny resemblance" to the fictional starship. 

Galaxy clusters are collections of many galaxies. NASA calls them "the largest objects in the universe held together by gravity."

The composite image combines X-ray, radio and optical data to give us a good look at Abell 1033, which is actually two galaxy clusters smashing into each other. 

The blue wisps of gas at the left side of the image look a bit like a sideways view of the Enterprise, with the saucer section towards the top. The other blue formation could pass for a rabbit's head. 

The cluster collision looks calm in the image, but it's actually very dramatic. "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," says the Chandra team.

This isn't the first time the Enterprise has been sighted by NASA out among the stars. The Spitzer Space Telescope captured an image of nebulae in 2016 that resemble both the old-school original starship and the more streamlined version from The Next Generation.

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