Hubble Spots A Space Invader
Space Invaders is one of the most iconic arcade games in the entirety of human history, but it also may have been a glimpse into the future. See, while hanging out in space, the Hubble Space Telescope has spied a galaxy that bears a striking resemblance to one of the pixilated characters from the original 1978 game.
You’re probably well aware that this isn’t a real space invader, and that we’re not in any imminent danger of being blown up by unwanted visitors from space. So don’t worry, we can all breathe a little bit easier tonight.
This is actually a distant collection of galaxies called Abell 68, which sits just a couple billion light years away doing, you know, space stuff. The space invader actually has the traditional spiral galaxy pattern, but gains this appearance via a process called “gravitational lensing”—where the gravity produced by planets and galaxies bends light travelling past, warping the image picked up by devices like Hubble. The parts that look like arms are really where gas giants are in the process of forming new stars.
The apparent eight-bit character is actually the swirling image of the lone galaxy, duplicated and reversed by distortion, and mashed together by physics so that it looks like an angry alien invader.