Ever wondered what the lifetime of a galaxy looks like? While the mind-bogglingly vast whorls of stars and gas and dust can seem eternal, they too are born and develop over the aeons.
From the point of view of a mortal human observer, who is lucky to have a mere century in which to watch the universe go by, the extremely long galactic lifespan presents a problem. Who has time to watch for a few billion years to see the action?
While most people might shrug and consign a cosmic mystery like this to the too hard basket, the computational boffins at NASA set out to get some answers. The result is above: 13.5 billion years in the life of a simulated disk galaxy condensed to a minute and a half of animation. (It did take a million hours of CPU time to compute, but you don’t need to worry about that.)
The field of view here is 300,000 light years across. Old stars are red, young stars are white and bright blue, and gas is shown in paler blue.
Read more about the evolution of galaxies at NASA.
Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.