Hubble finds ghostly object in deep space
In a galaxy far, far away: The Hubble Space Telescope has captured this image of Hanny's Voorwerp.
January 11th, 2011
10:04 AM ET

Hubble finds ghostly object in deep space

There's a green blob in space, but unlike a bad science fiction movie, it's not coming to take over Earth. Probably.

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of a green cloud of gas about 650 million light-years from Earth. It's been named Hanny's Voorwerp, Dutch for Hanny's Object.

The object is illuminated by a beam of light from a quasar that may have gone dark 200,000 years ago, according to the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

The Voorwerp is about the size of our Milky Way galaxy and is part of a 300,000-light-year-long stream of gas, the institute says. The green color is from glowing oxygen.

What appears to be a gaping hole in Hanny's Voorwerp actually may be a shadow cast by an object in the quasar's light path, according to the institute.

"This phenomenon is similar to a fly on a movie projector lens casting a shadow on a movie screen," the institute says.

The object may have been formed by a collision of two galaxies, according to the institute.

But don't worry. It won't bump into our galaxy within our lifetime.


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Filed under: Space
soundoff (469 Responses)
  1. Raymond H. Burgoon-Clark

    How beautiful! Like swirling emeralds!

    January 11, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. Charlotta

    Cool . Really!

    January 11, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. Eroc

    Wow! What rocket scientist put this together??? The Milky Way is 300,000 miles long?

    January 11, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  4. adam recht

    probably, i dont like the word probably used when talking about stuff like this. oh well still, interesting and a nice find

    January 11, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. lrkr

    The length is off by a factor of 5865696000000.

    January 11, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    The facts in this article seem incorrect. "The Voorwerp is part of a 300,000-mile-long stream of gas, which is about the size of our Milky Way galaxy, " - are you saying the Milky Way Galaxy is as wide as the Moon is far from the Earth?
    This object is 650 million light-years away, and you say it went dark 200,000 years ago? If that were really true, we'd still be seeing the light emitted from the quasar as it was 650 million years ago. I think what you really meant was that the quasar died 650,200,000 years ago.

    January 11, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Tracey M.R.

      You are correct to be confused by this poor reporting.
      According to
      "Astronomers found that Hanny's Voorwerp is the only visible part of a 300-light-year-long gaseous streamer stretching around the galaxy"
      Yes – that's 300-light years, not 300,000 miles!

      January 11, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You are spot on about the size mistake, but interestingly enough you could tell if it went dark 200,000 years ago, or rather 200,000 years before the light started its journey.

      The center of the big dark spot is where the quasar was. It was illuminating the cloud of gas, a 200,000 light year sphere around the center is dark, that means the light source went dark 200,000 years before the rest of the light started its journey. The rest of the cloud is being illuminated by light from the quasar that was sent before it was dark, that is the light we are seeing. We are essentially seeing a single frame in a slow motion darkening of that cloud of gas. 200,000 years ago we would have seen the cloud as fully lite up. If we had a time lapsed movie from that point of time, a sphere of darkness would have slowly expanded up until the present point. it will continue to expand until the cloud is entirely dark.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dana K.

    At last, the hand of the Green Lantern. Could it be a sign?

    January 11, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ken Hoke

    300,000 light years across.

    January 11, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. Antichrist

    Wow, my car has traveled almost as many miles as that cloud is long!

    January 11, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. ChicagoSciGuy

    First, the Milky Way is way way way more than 300,000 miles across so that fact is wrong along with who knows what else in this report.

    January 11, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. pv

    This article is just flat out wrong. It was discovered by a dutch biology teacher (hence the name Hanny's Voorwerp). Hubble, among many other telescopes was just pointed at it to reinvestigate what it is.

    Research, CNN...

    January 11, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Yeah. had an article about this today that was much better scientifically, and told the rather interesting story about how she found it. She's a Queen fan, was looking at Brian May's website where he mentioned a galaxy identification website, logged in and found the "thing" in a picture there, and asked the experts on the site what it was. The rest, as they say, is history.

      January 11, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    The Milky Way is actually about 100,000 light years in diameter and about 1,000 light years in thickness...

    January 11, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. joe

    i just wonder if its republican; probably not , because now we are going to want to pass "green gas" laws and raise taxes by 2% just to figure out how to keep it green, and not make it rely on itself for preservation

    January 11, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  14. Observer

    How long before anyone fantasizes that it's Jesus?

    January 11, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • publius enigma

      Its a cosmic snow angel!

      January 11, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. Frank

    People of the United States of America,
    625 million light years,this is another good reason to save the Hubble telescope.Lets find a star a Billion light years out.

    January 11, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • therm's been done. You're only a few years behind the times, thirty or forty or fifty years or more.

      January 11, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
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