As the universe infinitely expands into the void of space from the moment of the Big Bang, light shifts towards the red end of the visible spectrum. But NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has photographed a nearby galaxy, Messier 90, shifting to the blue end of the spectrum – a sign it is accelerating towards us. Messier 90 is a breathtaking spiral galaxy, much like the Milky Way, in the constellation Virgo the Virgin. The galaxy is currently located roughly 60 million light-years from the Milky Way – 352,717,520,000,000,000,000 miles – but parts of Messier are creeping closer by the day.
The worrisome discovery was announced this month (May) by the European Space Agency (ESA), which together with NASA operates the Hubble telescope.
According to ESA, Messier 90 belongs to a group of more than 1,200 galaxies in the Virgo Cluster.
But Messier’s apparent flight towards the Milky Way makes it stand out from the rest as an incredible rarity.
ESA said: “Messier 90 is remarkable; it is one of the few galaxies seen to be travelling toward the Milky Way, not away from it.
NASA SHOCK: A distant galaxy, Messier 90, is flying towards the Milky Way (Image: GETTY)
“The galaxy’s light reveals this incoming motion in that it is blue shifted.
“In simple terms, the galaxy is compressing the wavelength of its light as it moves towards us, like a slinky being squashed when you push on one end.
“This increases the frequency of the light and shifts it towards the blue end of the spectrum.”
As a rule of thumb, almost all of the galaxies in the observable universe are shifting towards red light – a process known as redshift.
Redshift is widely attributed to the so-called Doppler effect and was reported in 1929 by the American astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, after whom the Hubble telescope was named.
Messier 90 is remarkable; it is one of the few galaxies seen to be travelling toward the Milky Way
European Space Agency
Astronomers believe galactic redshift is evidence galaxies are flying away from each other and the further apart they are, the faster they move.
This, in turn, has given rise to the belief the universe as a whole is expanding.
But what about Messier 90’s shift towards the blue end of the bible spectrum?
ESA said: “Astronomers think that this blueshift is likely caused by the cluster’s colossal mass accelerating its members to high velocities on bizarre and peculiar orbits, sending them whirling around on odd paths that take them both towards and away from us over time.
“While the cluster itself is moving away from us, some of its constituent galaxies, such as Messier 90, are moving faster than the cluster as a whole, making it so that from Earth we see the galaxy heading towards us.
“However, some are also moving in the opposite direction within the cluster, and thus seem to be streaking away from us at very high velocity.”
NASA news: Messier 90 is located about 60 million light-years from the Milky Way (Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Sargent et al.;)
What happens when galaxies collide?
If Messier 90 is barreling towards the Milky Way, then at some point the two galaxies will have to collide?
According to astronomer Dr Amelie Saintonge of University College London, galactic collisions are a primary driving force of stellar “evolution”.
But this does not necessarily predict any cataclysms scenarios will unfold when the two collide.
The space exert said: “A galaxy is made row roughly 100 billion stars.
NASA news: Galaxies are moving away from one another and their light is turning red as a result (Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA)
So you would think that in a head-on collision between two galaxies, there would be countless collisions between those stars, right?
“The fact is in such a collision, the probability of two stars colliding is almost zero.
“This is because even though there are an incredibly large number of stars in the galaxies, the density of stars is not very big since the galaxies are extremely big.”
What this means, is the size of stars is tiny compared to the sheer amount of space in-between them, meaning they are more likely to miss each other than not.