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Mystery Photo

What in the world is it?

Mystery Photo
Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.

Photo Credit: (NASA & Space Telescope Science Institute)

An explosion in a spaghetti factory? An aerial view of two rats dancing in space? Well, it’s sort of a celestial version of both. What we see here is part of the aftermath of a galaxy collision. The tidal forces of gravity have strongly distorted the galaxies’ shapes, creating long plumes of material called "tidal tails."

One day our Milky Way Galaxy and its large neighboring Andromeda Galaxy may collide in a similar way. When they do come crashing together, it will be a horrendous collision that will twist and distort their shapes beyond recognition. Of course, to see that, you’ll have to wait several billion years.

But thanks to a combination of research science, Hollywood computer graphics, and large-scale visualization, visitors to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC can witness such an event today! It’s part of an incredibly detailed, full-dome video sequence which will be a highlight of "Infinity Express: A 20-Minute Tour of the Universe," the inaugural show in the National Air and Space Museum’s newly renovated Einstein Planetarium.


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