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. jersey shore

    Snooki let out a another Pooki...

    January 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Matt

    "The Voorwerp is part of a 300,000-mile-long stream of gas, which is about the size of our Milky Way galaxy"

    Wow... our galaxy is getting really tiny.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Well, the galaxy IS the best form of subatomic energy in the universe...

      January 11, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dirac

    Now considering this wisp of gas is in the middle of nowhere, light years away from the nearest gallaxy. Brings to mind Diracs original theory of everything. In that theory the big bang never happened instead there are two universes one is composed of electrons and positrons in a universe 2.4 degree kelvin. Energy seeks the lowest energy level. However, when that negative energy universe is full the excess quantum foam energy must go to (or stay) in the more positive energy universe. Over the eons of time electrons and positrons occasionallly form Neutrons (911 electron positron pairs make a neutron) Neutrons can only exist in free space for ~14.8 minutes until the beta decay into a proton and a electron-neutrino. Now we have all the particles required for mass to exist. Electrons are captured by the more stable protons and hydrogen is formed. and on and on ..... So maybe we are seeing the regeneration of new matter into our universe. Who Knows?

    January 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. conoclast

    Sorry CNN but we can't let this one go. If your grasp of science-related stories is that shakey please leave their reporting to the better-qualified. What we don't need is more misinformation!

    January 11, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Matt M

    Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. The milky way is 300,000 miles across??? Okay I can understand the occasional technical error, but that is like saying is the ocean is a quarter inch deep. Try 600,000,000,000,000,000 miles guys.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      Try something more in the vicinity of 551,880,000,000,000,000 (551.88 QUINTILLION) miles. Your number of 600 quadrillion was a bit short...

      MWG is roughly 90,000 light years wide. Light travels at roughly 700 million mph. there are 24 hours in a day, and roughly 365 days in a year (not breaking down into specifics). Thus 700,000,000 x 24 x 236 x 90,000 = 551,880,000,000,000,000

      January 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      Correction of the above post:
      700,000,000 x 24 x 365 x 90,000 = 551,880,000,000,000,000

      January 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Pamela

    Despite the errors and poor writing, can we at least celebrate yet another magnificent image generated by the Hubble?

    January 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. lightenup


    January 11, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. kerry

    I looked this object up on Wikipedia and the article was created in June 2008, and the Wiki article has a lot more information on this object than this article. This article makes it sound like Hubble discovered the voorwerp yesterday. And what's up with the 3rd grade Agatha Christie phrases? "Will we all die? Probably not. Probably!!!!" Worst written article since last week.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jiggles

    Thank you for reminding me why I never read the science section of ANY major news group! This country needs to start stressing science and math more in our education system. Parents need to stop saying "Aw, you think math is hard? That's ok, you don't have to do it when you get older."

    January 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dirac

    Sorry for the errors- the blog does not support symbols. So in Diracs original theory there are two universes one is a negative energy universe composed of electrons and positrons and a positive energy universe (our universe) composed of electrons and positrons. When the negative universe is fulll the energy of the quantum foam that permeats all of empty space stays in our universe until entropy takes over and our universal energy quantum decays to its lowest energy level. This might mean that it quantum decays back to the other universe.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cpc65

    "300,000-mile-long stream of gas, which is about the size of our Milky Way galaxy"??? – Ummm. 300,000 miles won't even get you to the moon. I think they're confusing miles with light years. HUGE difference.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moonraker

      Unless you travel straight to the moon that is, in which case you'd only have to travel a little under 250,000 miles.

      January 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Eswinson

    300,000-miles? I have more frequent flyer miles than that.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cosmos42

    Are you sure it wasn't 300,000 light years? Because then you'd be in the neighborhood of the size of our galaxy. 300,000 miles is about how far away the Moon is. CNN gets an F for basic knowledge of astronomy.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. iceman

    Now that's what I Call: A DEEP FREEZE!

    January 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cold War Veteran

    300,000 MILES?? More like 180,000 light years!! That's 5.9 x 1017 miles across!!

    CNN, please correct this error in your story. Thank you.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cold War Veteran

      That's 10 to the power of 17.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cold War Veteran

      For those unfamiliar with scientific notation, that's 590,000,000,000,000,000 miles, approximately. I believe that can be stated as 590 Quadrillion miles.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
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