Scientists Clarify Cosmic ‘Query Mark’ That Puzzled the Web


Webb Question Mark
Credit score: NASA, ESA, CSA / Picture processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

The James Webb House Telescope lately photographed the Herbig-Haro 46/47, a pair of newly forming stars. The gorgeous composite is huge and filled with wealthy element, together with a cosmic query mark.

Whereas PetaPixel highlighted the fascinating formation in its authentic protection late final month, the query mark form has gone viral this week. It has been featured on Nationwide Geographic, Reddit, and is even the topic of a Snopes reality examine. It’s truthful to say that the query mark in distant house has impressed many questions again on Earth.

What’s the Query Mark in House?

What’s the query mark in Webb’s NIRCam composite picture of Herbig-Haro 46/47? PetaPixel reached out to the House Science Telescope Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, to be taught extra.

Webb Question Mark
Herbig-Haro 46/47 as seen by Webb’s NIRCam instrument. The crimson sq. exhibits the place the cosmic query mark is positioned. Obtain the full-resolution model from STScI. | Credit score: NASA, ESA, CSA / Picture processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

“The query mark-shaped object might be a pair of distant galaxies within the background that are merging,” explains Dr. Christopher T. Britt, an Schooling and Outreach Scientist at STScI’s Workplace of Public Outreach.

“As they method and work together, the form of every galaxy could be distorted, together with by ripping out lengthy streamers of stars and fuel,” Britt continues.

On condition that the query mark has a crimson shade, it’s probably that the merging galaxies are very far-off. Nevertheless, merging galaxies are additionally discovered a lot nearer to Earth. The Milky Means Galaxy is merging with a close-by galaxy, the truth is.

“We’re going to merge with our nearest giant neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, in one other 4 billion years or so,” Britt says.

Frank Summers of STScI labored with Gurtina Besla from Columbia College and Roeland van der Marel (STScI) to create a visualization that exhibits what the merger could appear to be.

The close to head-on collision will outcome within the Milky Means and Andromeda galaxies forming a brand new single elliptical galaxy. The collision will virtually definitely haven’t any noticeable impact on Earth, assuming it nonetheless exists in 4 billion years.

Again to the merging galaxies that type the cosmic query mark. As a result of Webb’s unprecedented sensitivity, it regularly detects distant background galaxies like these, a few of which have by no means been seen by human eyes earlier than.

In PetaPixel’s interview with two picture processors at STScI, Joe DePasquale and Alyssa Pagan, Pagan talked about this type of discovery.

“Once you see these background galaxies come to life, even in photographs that aren’t meant to be deep discipline photographs, you acknowledge that you simply is likely to be the primary particular person to see this background galaxy. That simply form of blows your thoughts,” Pagan remarked.

Generally these background galaxies tackle mesmerizing and mysterious shapes.


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