A Virtual Galactic Smash-Up!

An online simulator for galactic collisions (Adrian Price-Whelan/Columbia University)

Have you ever had the desire to build your own galaxies, setting your own physical parameters and including as many stars as you want, and then smash them together like two toy cars on a track? Well, now you can do just that from the comfort of your own web browser (and no waiting billions of years for the results!)

This interactive online app by Adrian Price-Whelan lets you design a galaxy, including such parameters as star count, radius and dispersion rate, and then create a second galaxy to fling at it. Clicking and dragging on the black area will send the invading galaxy on its course, letting you watch the various results over and over again. (If those SMBH’s hit, look out!)

In reality many galaxies have gone through (or are going through, from our perspective) such collision events, our own Milky Way being no exception. In fact, the Milky Way is on course to collide with the Andromeda Galaxy… in about 4 billion years.

So while we wait patiently for that, this is just a bit of addictive fun to distract you from your Cyber Monday shopping spree. Enjoy!

(Source: Columbia University Astronomy & Physics)

Inset image: Hubble interacting galaxies UGC 9618, 450 million light-years away. Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)