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. GuerillaGorilla

    Next it is time to beat on the other parts of this articles innacuracy... The visible portion of this oddity (the green glowing part) is only 92,000 light years long, or roughly the size of the Milky Way Galaxy. The entire oddity is about 300,000 light years long, including the non-visible portion. It wraps around it's associated galaxy (IC 2497). The interesting part of this, part of what the Hubble was looking for, is that the upper yellow and orange part of the glowing portion is filled with ongoing star birth. The associated quasar is NOT in fact in the oddity, but in the nearby galaxy core. The large dark spot in the center is a "shadow effect" due to interference between the quasar and the oddity. The evidence is supported by a massive outflow of gas and particles from the core visible only to space based telescopes, an outflow caused by a quasar fueled by the influx of matter near a black hole. The quasar "flashed on" once enough matter was collected causing a massive burst of light, illuminating the oddity. Then 200,000 years ago (or, if you are looking for true numbers, 650,200,000 years ago real time) the quasar "shut off" and what we see now is the remanent of the burst of light.

    The oddity was discovered in 2007 by a school teacher in the Netherlands who was assisting in the Galaxy Zoo project. The teacher, Hanny van Arkel, spotted it in an image taken during the Slaon Digital Sky Survey. The name Hanny's Voorwerp means "Hanny's Object" in Dutch. Recently a lot of the worlds telescopes and sensors were pointed at this thing, with the best images of course coming from Hubbles Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys.

    I use the term oddity because there is no true classification for this type of stellar object yet, other than tidal tail.

    January 11, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • GuerillaGorilla

      My appologies for the massive post that re-states the article. I had started typing it, and was double checking my facts, when the article was updated. There are a few more details, like where the quasar is and the means by which the discovery was made. I didn't mention the theory that the Voorwerp is possibly the remanent of two galaxies colliding, which is again supported by visible evidence in the near-by galaxy (twisting in the spiral arms of the galaxy, and unsetteled dust lanes). This collision is also possibly what provided the matter required by the quasar to create the outburst of light that is iluminating the Voorwerp in this image.

      January 11, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • imastarchick

      Thanks for a "real" enlightening article!

      January 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • fred

      You have tooo much free time on your hands.

      January 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. seth

    Guys this was obviously a typo, and an attempt at humor. The author should simply make the corrections and we all move on. No worries.

    January 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. MichaelInDC

    OK, OK. Enough of bashing the author. Yes, originally the article stated 300,000 miles rather than 300,000 light years. But to say that the author didn't know what he was talking about is going over the top. It may have been just an inadvertant error. I agree that the proof reading should have caught the error, but it didn't. That doesn't mean the author didn't know that the galaxy is larger than 300,000 miles. We all make mistakes.

    January 11, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • BinNC

      People who know science/space do not confuse miles with light years, nor do they think the size of the Milky Way Galaxy is 300,000 miles (or even 300,000 light years), which was what was originally implied. So, thank you, but I'm going to keep my opinion that the author truly doesn't know what he is talking about. However, even if it was an inadvertent error, then Mr. Kavanagh fails Journalism Grammar 101 for constructing such a poor sentence. Either way, FAIL.

      January 11, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin Bieber

      Wait, so what you're saying is don't make fun of this guy because he wrote an article about something he knows nothing about?

      January 12, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Curtis Garrett

    The headline is also wrong. It was discovered (found) by Hanny Van Arkel while working on GalaxyZoo phase 1.
    GalaxyZoo is a citizen science project. It developed into which is an umbrella org for several citizen science project. has a better article about this.
    garrett_cw- GalaxyZoo member since July 2007 (early adopter).

    January 11, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. PCola Vet

    Very amusing to see how STUPID many who post on this are. Did ANY of you make it through high school? For crying our loud the article CLEARLY states 300,000 LIGHT YEARS across, NOT 300,000 miles. One more time LIGHT YEARS across, you freaking dolts, lol. Jeex Lueez READ people just READ.

    January 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • PVS

      again: perhaps it says that because the article was corrected? unlike your newspaper, they can change stuff on the internet.

      January 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis F

      @PCola Vet

      When I saw the article a few hours before your post it said 300,000 miles. You would think that whoever edited the article would at least provide the time of update when they corrected it...especiially after all the comments on the accuracy of the article. Not much journalistic integrity there....

      January 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin Bieber

      Wait, you honestly thought that EVERYONE made the exact same mistake, and mistook lightyears for miles? And you're calling us stupid...

      January 12, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. lenny turok

    iit's just hal jordan learning to use his powers as green lantern duhh!!! you can't even have privacy in space. damn you hubblee!!!! 🙂

    January 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • KahlilKent was kryptonite, Superman will be in deep trouble.

      January 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • swisscityzan

      looks like when I check for worms after i'm donw with number 2opppaaaa my mom would be proud

      January 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      I love the big hole in the middle.. It's like a blackhole..

      January 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boring

      Everything scientific is related to comic books these days. Eventually your face will be a comic book.

      January 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wow

      That's where the Norway Spiral came from!! Neato!

      January 11, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • george

      jehovah god created the universe and the earth,he knows every star by name..says it in the bible.....

      January 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • VegasRage

      george that is most ridiculous and pointless post I have seen all day. Might want to try a new approach to recruitment.

      February 2, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. PCola Vet

    Thanks PVS, didn't know the article had been corrected.

    January 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jackal&jester

    Well measurements aside I believe we have found some vespene gas. As a starcraft fan this is the first thing I thought of after reading this.

    January 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      true. No chance of harvesting it tho, as we would need vespene first to make the proper stargate. we will be stuck on mass marines forever, stuck on our island xpax

      January 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoPo

      I think we've wasted our supply limit on marines, ghosts and nukes. Damn newbs!!!

      January 28, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • EB

      Best comment so far.

      February 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. XV

    To the believers and non-believers, please answer these questions.

    If God created the universe, who created God? God all of a sudden appeared from nothing? Very difficult to believe or understand, unless you just believe.

    If everything was started from the Big Bang, what was there 1 second before the Big Bang? Did the Big Bang and all the matter start from nothing? Don't say gravity started it, even if you are the greatest scientist living today. That is too funny.

    Can we just say we simply don't know and may never know, atleast not yet? May be our brain is not capable of understanding everything just as an animal is not capable of understanding to the level we do.

    January 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vanessa

      There are folks who will bring this discussion up in ANY thread. How do we know you're not just trolling?

      January 11, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disgusted w/warmongers

      Stephen Hawking can anwer this better. He claims that the universe is capabale of spontaneous creation. At the same time, the beauty of creation is that it nevertheless does permit for the possibility of discover that, one necessarily needs to look within - "The answer's at the end."

      January 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • leggs67

      There was no 1 second before the big bang as time did not exist. Gravity did not cause it and it had no mass.

      January 11, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      What was one second before the big bang? Two membranes colliding. Read M-Theory. It's great stuff.

      January 11, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spencer

      See? That's what hatches from inside of a planet. A green monster.. That sure explains all the earthquakes lately. 🙂 Sleep tight!

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

      God is three persons in One body. Therefore, based on methodical conversion that's how it all got started. Trigonometry my friend.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Newsjoke

      Honestly, who cares if god exists or not? I just think it's cool that stuff like this exists and that we can look at it. Why drag god into it all? Let's just enjoy the fact that we have more mysteries to solve in the Universe, than we would ever be capable of solving, and that's great news, because it means that the wow effect will never wear off for our species.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • carliet

      I agree if god created everything who created god ? and what did happen before the big bang? Is it possible that we are inside a black hole since black holes are port holes to other places. Or is it possible that there are other universes outside of ours that created this univese since everything has a start point and everything has a end point is it possible that our universe does too unless it is round like a sphere in that case there is no end point or beginng point. Its whatever you want to think but i dont think humans have developed the capibility to figure out what did happened yet in this time period all people can do is put the pieces to the puzzle together until the answer is revealed.

      January 12, 2011 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
    • r3dh3ad

      Am I the only one who sees the resemblance to His Noodliness?? Ramen!

      January 12, 2011 at 5:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin Bieber

      No one created God, he's always been there. Silly...

      January 12, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • k-mo

      its called faith

      January 14, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • tracy


      January 16, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • tracy


      January 16, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • andy666

      Well at least scientists are making progress explaining everything, whereas the 'science' of God seems to be chipped away at at the same pace science makes real progress. Earth isn't flat anymore, is it?

      January 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • jj

      There is speculation about 'white holes' – the other end of a black hole. The big bang may have come when a super white hole formed. And it's all speculation. We don't know enough to answer competently. But speculation and reasoning is fun. (until religion is tossed in)

      February 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. To XV

    Our mind is not capable, but our being is. God is the nothing that it sprang from and God is throughout. The is the closest way I can describe it, but God is understood best when felt. The infinite and the eternal.

    January 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      Does he also enjoy drinking jack as much as you do?

      January 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      The infinite and the eternal. To me, that would be the Goddess. It is She who gives birth.

      January 12, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • jj

      Agree with Eliz – if 'god' is Mother Nature, physics, cause and effect – I'm there with you.

      February 2, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. To XV

    (correction) That is the closest....

    January 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. maX

    as a Human You were never ment to understand the beginning of God. The creation of God if any or if he has always been. Your puny Mind/ Brain CAN never comprehend that. Ever!

    January 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Religious Sects

      Your comment just proved that!

      January 11, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Weallhaveone


      January 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      Yes, god can only be understood by the special.. the elite.. the chosen ones.. (crank up the final countdown on the radio)

      January 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin Bieber

      He? What, do you think God's a girl or something? The Bible refers to him as He. He is used to show whether it is male, or unigender. Duh.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. bobby

    can god make a burrito so hot that even he cannot eat?

    January 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      A Voorwerp is not a weapon it's a tool, like a hammer or a screwdriver or an alligator

      January 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1234


      January 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kaladin

      Out of all the comments i read so far here..this one made me stop and think.

      February 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Truth

    why do religious nuts flock to science articles ?

    January 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • wow

      why do science nut's flock to religion articles.

      January 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      because it's fun speaking from authority about something they have never studied except from a few hours of Mr Wizard on TV.

      January 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Melody

    That's awesome

    January 11, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
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