I came across this image through erdilielsfavourites‘s blog post “Hubble’s Greatest Hits“, on the twenty-second anniversary of the Hubble Telescope.
The image shows “a delicate cosmic dance is taking place between two galaxies known together as ARP 273. The larger galaxy is an off-kilter spiral, suggesting that the smaller one has actually passed through it. Given the titanic forces that can be released when galaxies merge, these two are lucky to be in the healthy shape they are.” – TIME magazine
Contemplating the physical and temporal scale of the two galaxies passing through each other made me almost physically sick.
I couldn’t help but tink of an intelligent species evolving in some non-distinct solar system and emerging as a star faring civilisation just as the galaxies begin to collide and then wiped out with no hope of escape. There would have been warning too but no chance of survival; not just of one planet lost but entire regions of the galaxy, billions of species lost to the universe.
But then, maybe as a result of the collision, a new species of intelligent life emerges from the shattered star stuff.
It was the same sick, frustrated feeling I remember from a reoccurring dream I had when I was young:
I had to get to the other side of the world to be with someone and travelled there on an ocean liner, taking six months, only to find they’d left to come back to me. I would jump back on the ship but then discover they had done the same. In desperation I would leave a note telling them to stay where they are but then find the same note to me when I arrived.
Whenever I stayed they did too, and whenever I travelled they would too; always…frustrated by the tyranny of distance and time.