NASA Studying Strange, Star-Creating Blob

Hanny's Voorwerp creating 'lonely' stars 'in the middle of nowhere'

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 11, 2011 8:43 AM CST

(Newser) – The Hubble Telescope has turned its gaze to a mysterious glowing green blob that’s creating stars where stars shouldn’t normally form. Dubbed Hanny’s Voorwerp, after the Dutch elementary school teacher who first discovered it in 2007, the blob is a swirling mass of hydrogen gas, caused by a close encounter from two galaxies, astronomers tell the AP. It’s illuminated by a quasar lodged within one of those galaxies.

Parts of the Voorwerp are collapsing in on itself, creating enough pressure to create new stars far from any normal galaxy. These are “very lonely newborn stars … in the middle of nowhere,” says one astronomer. The blob was discovered by then-24-year-old Hanny van Arkel, during the Galaxy Zoo project, which let laypeople catalog new objects from star photos. At the time, “it actually looked like a blue smudge,” she says. “Now it looks like a dancing frog in the sky.”

This image, taken April 12, 2010 by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows an unusual, ghostly green blob of gas appears to float near a normal-looking spiral galaxy.   (AP Photo/Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute)
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