Astronomy Picture of the Week – Space Oddity

This unusual ghostly green blob of gas appears to float near a normal-looking spiral galaxy in the image taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The bizarre object, dubbed Hanny’s Voorwerp (Hanny’s Object in Dutch), is the only visible part of a 300,000-light-year-long streamer of gas stretching around the IC 2497 galaxy. The object is visible because a searchlight beam of light from a quasar in the galaxy’s core illuminated it. A quasar is a bright, energetic object that is powered by a super-massive black hole. The Voorwerp is the size of our Milky Way galaxy, and its bright green color is from glowing oxygen. The galaxy as well as the object are located about 650 million light-years from Earth.

Hubble Space Oddity

An interaction between IC 2497 and another galaxy about a billion years ago may have created Hanny’s Voorwerp and fueled the quasar. The Hubble image shows that the galaxy has been disturbed, with complex dust patches, warped spiral arms, and regions of star formation around its core. These features suggest the aftermath of a galaxy merger.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, W. Keel (University of Alabama), and the Galaxy Zoo Team

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.


  • natty

    This is a very nice post! I am very amazed on how the universe works. There just seem to have a lot of mysteries and questions about it that humankind does not even know how to answer to. Hoping to read more of your articles!

  • Helen Askins

    It’s incredible when you think about it, looking at this small picture and not realizing how HUGE that voorwerp actually is…

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