The universe may be expanding, with most galaxies moving away from one another, but not so for the Milky Way and neighbouring galaxy Andromeda. They are on a trajectory to collide in three billion years, and over another one billion years will merge and be reborn as a single elliptical galaxy. Astronomer John Dubinski, who specializes in the dynamics and formation of galaxies, has created a supercomputer simulation of the event on his DVD, “Gravitas: Portraits of a Universe in Motion.” (Right, the galaxies are shown a few million years after the merge begins with the smaller Milky Way on the bottom.)
The DVD also contains eight other simulations, ranging from galaxy formation, galaxy interactions, and star and galaxy clusters. Using the supercomputer at U of T’s Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, Dubinski has captured the universe’s complex gravitational dances. The pieces run from two to 8 minutes, and generally cover 50-100 million years per second. “It’s akin to time-lapse photography, except you take one frame per million years,” says Dubinski. He collaborates with composer John Kameel Farah – who intertwines such sounds as Middle Eastern music, baroque and electronica – to provide an ethereal musical backdrop. The DVD is available at www.galaxydynamics.org.