Hubble zooms in on a space oddity

Jan 10, 2011
In this image by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, an unusual, ghostly green blob of gas appears to float near a normal-looking spiral galaxy. The bizarre object, dubbed Hanny’s Voorwerp (Hanny’s Object in Dutch), is the only visible part of a streamer of gas stretching 300,000 light-years around the galaxy, called IC 2497. The greenish Voorwerp is visible because a searchlight beam of light from the galaxy’s core has illuminated it. This beam came from a quasar: a bright, energetic object that is powered by a black hole. The quasar may have turned off in the last 200,000 years. This Hubble view uncovers a pocket of star clusters, the yellowish-orange area at the tip of Hanny’s Voorwerp. The star clusters are confined to an area that is a few thousand light-years wide. The youngest stars are a couple of million years old. The Voorwerp is the size of the Milky Way, and its bright green color is from glowing oxygen. The image was made by combining data from the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) onboard Hubble, with data from the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak, Ariz. The ACS exposures were taken April 12, 2010; the WFC3 data, April 4, 2010. Credit: NASA, ESA, William Keel (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa), and the Galaxy Zoo team

A strange, glowing green cloud of gas that has mystified astronomers since its discovery in 2007 has been studied by Hubble. The cloud of gas is lit up by the bright light of a nearby quasar, and shows signs of ongoing star formation.

One of the strangest space objects ever seen is being scrutinised by the penetrating vision of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. A mysterious, glowing green blob of gas is floating in space near a . Hubble uncovered delicate filaments of gas and a pocket of young in the giant object, which is the size of the Milky Way.

The Hubble revelations are the latest finds in an ongoing probe of Hanny's Voorwerp (Hanny's Object in Dutch). It is named after Hanny van Arkel, the Dutch schoolteacher who discovered the ghostly structure in 2007 while participating in the online Galaxy Zoo project. Galaxy Zoo enlists the public to help classify more than a million galaxies catalogued in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The project has expanded to include Galaxy Zoo: Hubble, in which the public is asked to assess tens of thousands of galaxies in deep imagery from the .

In the sharpest view yet of Hanny's Voorwerp, Hubble's 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys have uncovered in a region of the green object that faces the spiral galaxy IC 2497, located about 650 million light-years from Earth. Radio observations have shown an outflow of gas arising from the galaxy's core. The new Hubble images reveal that the galaxy's gas is interacting with a small region of Hanny's Voorwerp, which is collapsing and forming stars. The youngest stars are a couple of million years old.

The greenish Voorwerp is visible because a searchlight beam of light from the galaxy's core has illuminated it. This beam came from a quasar — a bright, energetic object that is powered by a black hole. The quasar is thought to have turned off less than 200 000 years ago.

Astronomer Bill Keel of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, USA, leader of the Hubble study, is presenting his results on this object today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, USA.

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User comments : 12

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geokstr
4.6 / 5 (11) Jan 10, 2011
I've been following Hanny's Voorweep since it was first discovered as part of the Galaxy Zoo project, where anyone can go on to their site and help identify galaxy types for as many galaxies as you want. The project also identified another phenomenon called Green Peas, small round green objects, as well as thousands of new galaxies in collision. Amazing place. You should visit and join up. They also have a sister project where you can help discover new exoplanets.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2011
Another anomaly which undermines the "standard model" regarding both stellar formation and cosmic formation. Oxygen is only supposed to form in very massive stars and supernovas, not gigantic galaxy scale clouds.
DamienS
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2011
Another anomaly which undermines the "standard model" regarding both stellar formation and cosmic formation.

Really? Do tell how this bundle of gas undermines everything we know about cosmology. I could use a good laugh!
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (5) Jan 10, 2011
It's a cloud of oxygen the size of a galaxy.

Don't try to pretend you don't know what's wrong with that.
vidar_lund
5 / 5 (5) Jan 10, 2011
It's a cloud of oxygen the size of a galaxy.

Don't try to pretend you don't know what's wrong with that.


The article doesn't claim that the Voorwerp is pure oxygen - probably it is hydrogen and helium with a dash of oxygen. The star formation regions of the Voorwerp should definitely be hydrogen and helium. The northern lights also gets their green color from exited oxygen but the mechanism is probably a bit different.
DamienS
5 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2011
It's a cloud of oxygen the size of a galaxy.

Don't try to pretend you don't know what's wrong with that.

You're the one making outlandish claims. You tell me how this invalidates mainstream cosmology.
SDrapak
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2011
Just because it's there doesn't mean it formed there.
For all we know we're the equivalent squirrels staring at the Goodyear blimp and figuring we have a pretty good read on what it is (a giant flying walnut)
ultrabrad
4 / 5 (4) Jan 11, 2011
Am I missing something or does the article not define exactly what is unusual about the object? It mentions a bunch of its characteristics, but it doesn't say, "This is unusual because". I find a lot of articles on physorg are like that, it's like they are trying hard to be opaque. Annoying.
tkjtkj
5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2011
Whoever came up with that lunatic idea of years past that the Hubble should be killed should be fired.

Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) Jan 11, 2011

You're the one making outlandish claims. You tell me how this invalidates mainstream cosmology.


"Oxygen is only supposed to form in very massive stars and supernovas, not gigantic galaxy scale clouds."

Mainstream cosmology claims that hydrogen and helium were created some 13 billion years ago, and that other elements only form in fusion in stars, or in supernovas. You know this. Stop ignoring the truth, which is that a cloud like this totally contradicts that psuedo-science called the Big Bang.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 11, 2011
Mainstream cosmology claims that hydrogen and helium were created some 13 billion years ago, and that other elements only form in fusion in stars, or in supernovas. You know this. Stop ignoring the truth, which is that a cloud like this totally contradicts that psuedo-science called the Big Bang.
No. The cloud being composed of oxygen, even in part, simply means that before the cloud existed, stars must have existed.

Since we can see that there are stars inside the object, and that Hanny's object in particular is between two large existant galaxies composed of stars, there's no contradiction in regards to the standard model of cosmology.

Before you call something pseudoscience, you may want to actually understand it.
rwinners
not rated yet Jan 11, 2011
What are the odds that this cloud will form a new galaxy?

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