This visualization shows two colliding galaxies that merge into a single elliptical galaxy over a period spanning two billion years. Credits: NCSA, NASA, B. Robertson, L. Hernquist
The Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) collaborated with NASA and Drs. Brant Robertson and Lars Hernquist to visualize two colliding galaxies that interact and merge into a single elliptical galaxy over a period spanning two billion years of evolution. The scientific theoretical model and the computational data output were developed by Drs. Brant Robertson and Lars Hernquist. AVL rendered more than 80 gigabytes of this data using in-house rendering software and Virtual Director for camera choreography. This computation provides important research to understand galaxy mergers, and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will provide data to test such theories. When two large disk-shaped galaxies merge — as will happen within the next few billion years with the Milky Way galaxy and its largest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy — the result will likely settle into a cloud-shaped elliptical galaxy. Most elliptical galaxies observed today formed from collisions that occurred billions of years ago. It is difficult to observe such collisions now with ground-based telescopes since these collisions are billions of light-years away. JWST will probe in unprecedented detail those distant epochs, and provide exquisite images of mergers caught in the act of destroying disk galaxies.