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. dave

    hey, don't lose sight of that Voorwerp! We might need that oxygen one day.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. zam

    wow the galaxy is only 300k miles long?

    January 11, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  3. John

    Hubble captures pictures of 2012. Repent now and accept His grace!

    January 11, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. Zaphod

    It's the Great Green Arkleseizure! Beware the coming of the Great White Handkerchief!

    January 11, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. steves


    January 11, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • mixablink


      January 11, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    Please, CNN, let me know how this blob of gas can travel 300 million times the speed of light. Because that is the only way it could conceivably get here within our lifetimes.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tewrobert

    I just knew we shouldnt have bought that dang hubble scope. Its gonna worry everyone to death, Especially our poor congressmen trying to figure out how to capitalize on it 🙂

    January 11, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. Run4DaHills

    The Gods Must Be Gassy.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jake

    This article has been more entertaining than informative....they should have put it under the ENTERTAINMENT tab.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. tankrothchild

    Was this written by Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich? This looks like their quality work. ROFL >:-()

    January 11, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. Splel CHeck

    Remember when CNN reported important news with logical articles or articulate broadcasts? Yeah, me neither.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Cliff Vegas

      Once in a while, it's nice to get a break from the 3m's (Murder, mayhem, mischief).

      January 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Poorly Written!

      January 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • DIsbandNasa

      This is ridiculous. Who cares. Redirect NASA funding to fix the broken U.S. court system right here on Earth. Enough already. That is my opinion.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvey

      So our galaxy is only 300,000 miles long huh.
      Nice proof reading. Do you actually accept a paycheck for this garbage?

      January 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      exactly. stop wasting money on space as the more we discover the more we see the silliness of religion. and as for cnn yes it needs more bs stories like f o x n e w s

      January 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd G

      Yeah, whatever. You read it, didn't you? So stop whining.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nitalynn

      "Redirect NASA funding to fix the broken U.S. court system right here on Earth." DIsbandNasa, yeah, right. Like they're really going to get right on that. It might as well go to NASA because otherwise it would go to someone's or everyone's private little project(s) if not straight into their pocket!

      January 11, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris B

      300,000 miles!!?? I fear it's not proof reading as NO ONE uses miles when referring to ANYTHING on this scale – just flat out ignorance by the reporter/blogger – Yikes – further signs of the Apocalypse

      January 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris B

      Ugh, Cliff Vegas you might want to re-read the story yourself ( or go back to the tables) – the 300K miles was stated as being about the size of our Milky Way – ya think they may have meant Light Years chief – only one not "gleaning the simple facts" is you

      January 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I care

      January 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • S Rogers

      It looks like a drop of liquid being dropped into a denser liquid, which is viewed from the bottom at an angle. Hope that wasn't to hard to follow...:p

      January 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • spazjdm


      So our galaxy is only 300,000 miles long huh.
      Nice proof reading. Do you actually accept a paycheck for this garbage?

      google the difference between 300,000 light years and 300,000 miles buddy....hopefully you dont get paid for your proof reading!

      January 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      @Harvey, if you can read, it says 300,000 LIGHT years! Nice proof-reading yourself.

      January 11, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      @DIsbandNasa – you really want to disband Nasa and the space progra?. You do realize that a lot of technology that you take for granted in ever day life came from the space program or is a spin off from the space program right? For instance, dustbusters, home security systems, smoke detectors, flat panel televisions, trash compactors, sports bras, hair styling appliances, self-adjusting sunglasses, compact discs, microcomputers, etc... I can print out a huge list for you if you want. So why would you want to cancel something that has contributed more to modern society than probably any other program I can think of. So yeah, let's disband Nasa and the space program. Sounds like a good idea. NOT!!!

      January 11, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • PVS

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

      January 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cat

      @ Harvey, you're an idiot...300,000 light years does not equal 300,000 miles, go back to your school in West Virginia or which ever other back woods ass place you are from. And to the rest of the ignorant excuses for existence who think we should cut NASA funding, where are your grandchildren going to live when we have exhausted all natural resources and living space here on our planet?

      January 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bill

    Please have someone who has passed 8th grade science to edit these stories. 300,000 miles? withing our lifetime? I know possible lifetime was meant to be a joke, but even if this was coming directly for our galaxy, it probably wouldn't interfere with our suns expected lilfetime of 5 billion years from now and I am not sure if a gas cloud would have that much of an effect.

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

      I agree. This is written like a tabloid.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cliff Vegas

      It is distressing when posters fail to glean the simplest facts from a story... then blame it on the writer. The cloud is 300,000 miles LONG and is 650 million light years away. And by the way... the confluence between our sun and a 300,000 mile long gas cloud is totally unpredictable. It might do nothing, then again it could destroy all life on Earth. That's the whole point... and to boot... the writer is playing with the topic a little. My suggestion... readjust your tinfoil hats or get a life.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • unretired05

      A tabloid would have done better. The size of the Milky Way 3000,000 miles?

      January 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • PVS

      Cliff Vegas, are you denying that the article clearly suggests that the milky way galaxy is 300,000 miles in diameter? its there in plain english.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • unretired05

      OOps got carried away with 0s

      January 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      I know. I thought the distance just between Earth and Jupiter was much more than 300,000 miles long. I will admit, I have seen more and more inaccuracies in CNN's reporting. That's disheartening.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • 4thGrader

      The sun's diameter is 870,000 miles. And he says that the gas (300,000 miles) is as big as our galaxy?

      January 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sir Craig

      No kidding – reading this gave me a headache. And Cliff: It's not 300K miles long, it's 300K light years long. The blob is as big as our own galaxy, most likely because at one time it had been a galaxy before it was consumed by what is suspected to be a black hole in the middle of that blob. That's what Bill was complaining about: Someone who was unable to get even basic facts about this blob correct.

      So in the future, Cliff, instead of being a jerk, do some research of your own and cease with the idiot comments.

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

      Also, since the light was manifested 650 million years ago, who knows if the thing is still around?

      January 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dennis F

      @Cliff Vegas.

      What is distressing is when someone passes the kind of brain fart you just passed. Whew!!!

      300,000 miles is ~1.6 light-seconds which is about 5.1E-08 Light-years. In trig, that distance would be the opposite side of the triangle. The adjacent side would be 6.5E+08 light-years. That would represent an angle of ~4.5E-15 degrees. That would require a resolution of about 1.6E-11 arc seconds to resolve.

      Hubble never had anywhere near that kind of resolution and never will.

      I hope you don't suffer from those brain farts too often 🙂

      January 11, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cliff Vegas

      lol PVS... no, you're right. It clearly says that. When I read it, I automatically replaced "light years" – my bad. I have this mental switch – it shuts out bad info and replaces it with the next possible explanation...

      January 11, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    I knew i smelled something

    January 11, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dr. T

    This piece makes me sad. I can accept that the whole "maybe, probably" stuff was an attempt at humor in spite of the fact that Hanny's Voorwerp could not possibly reach us any time in the next 650 million years. But to say that it is 300,000 miles across AND the size of our Milky Way galaxy is an indication of either ignorance (300,000 miles isn't remotely close to the size of our galaxy) or laziness (not bothering to proof read the article to catch an error in units). Even if they meant light-years instead of miles, the Milky Way is more like 100,000 ly across. Harlow Shapley thought it was 300,000 ly across in 1918, but since about 1930 we have known it was much smaller than that.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Cliff Vegas

      Can't find an actual size calculation for the thing, but astronomers estimate that the "hole" in the cloud is actually a projected light shadow that has an apparent size of 16,000 light years. I'm not really certain where the "300,000 miles" came from, unless it was an extrapolation; in that case, the cloud might be 300,000 ly.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evan

      Ummmm, yeah. For those who have no inclination about the workings of our universe and more sadly our solar system, 300,000 miles is roughly the distance between the Earth and our moon. Also, I am seriously questioning weather this thing is 300,000 miles long. The only thing that hubble takes pictures of that are 650 light years away are other galaxies. Oh, by the way, nebulae, which this is, are often light years in length themselves. Article is completely nonsensical and amateur.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      The way I read it, I assumed they meant that the object we can see is 300,000 miles long, but is part of a larger gas cloud that is the size of our galaxy. I agree that the way it's worded makes it seem kind of weird, though.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evan


      The hole in the center of the green mass is 10ly across.

      January 11, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moonraker

      Correct, Dr. T. According to wikipedia, the Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter. Their article about this Hanny's Voorwerp (which was discovered in 2007 btw, so this is NOT anything new) states that it is about the same diameter as our Milky Way. 100,000 light years equates to about 600,000,000,000,000,000 miles (600 quadrillion miles), a bit more than the figure stated in this article I'm afraid. (If only HAL 9000 was here).

      January 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      Whoops. Look like I didn't read close enough :O

      January 11, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • tt

      I have yet to hear of all these galaxies that hubble photographs which are 650 ly away from sol. I think you meant 650,000,000 ly. You were close though, only off by a factor of 1 million (might want to check your own numbers before bashing the writer)

      January 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. blue

    While I question the the level of interest in their readership (in addition to many other things), at least Fox News maintains an actual science section on their website.

    After CNN liquidated their science editors a few years back, the quality of their science articles went from mediocre to downright abysmal. And we wonder why people are scientifically illiterate in this country...

    January 11, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Cliff Vegas

      So... what are you saying here, a green gas cloud that's 750 million ly away isn't 'science' enough? But now that you mention it... it does remind me of Faux News... a green, ill-looking cloud off in the distance.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      yeah i bet f o x n e w s science section is 1> mostly false 2> pushing creationism

      January 11, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • blue

      Oh, it's a perfectly worthy story, just butchered to hell and pandering to the lowest common denominator.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • penlamphatt

      Anyone who uses any mainstream news source (FOX, CNN, MSNBC, etc) to get their science news, is not really a "science person". All of these news sources are horrendous in reporting new scientific finds, including FOX (yeah blue, their science section that you speak highly of is terrible at best). If you want real science news, go somewhere legitimate. Mainstream will report whatever the heck they feel because they know 90% of it's readers aren't scientifically minded, thus not capable of understanding the nature and scope of the findings in the first place.

      January 11, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • blue

      And once again, we wonder why our country is scientifically illiterate. The people who care will go and read Nature, SciAm, or whatever, but the casual reader will come here and leave less informed than he or she was before.

      January 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • blue

      ...and I don't speak highly of their science section, all I said was at least they pretend to have one.

      January 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fricsaid

      Considering how acclimated you are with science, perhaps you should inquire about a writing job for the CNN science team. I'm sure they would love to hear what you have to add. 🙂

      January 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
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