Hanny’s Voorwerp

It’s not every day you see a dead green quasar…

In this image by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, an unusual, ghostly green blob of gas appears to float near a normal-looking spiral galaxy.

The bizarre object, dubbed Hanny’s Voorwerp (Hanny’s Object in Dutch), is the only visible part of a streamer of gas stretching 300 000 light-years around the galaxy, called IC 2497. The greenish Voorwerp is visible because a searchlight beam of light from the galaxy’s core has illuminated it. This beam came from a quasar, a bright, energetic object that is powered by a black hole. The quasar may have turned off in the last 200 000 years.

This Hubble view uncovers a pocket of star clusters, the yellowish-orange area at the tip of Hanny’s Voorwerp. The star clusters are confined to an area that is a few thousand light-years wide. The youngest stars are a couple of million years old. The Voorwerp is the size of the Milky Way, and its bright green colour is from glowing oxygen.

SpaceTelescope.org

Plus, I thought the Hubble was spacejunk…