The James Webb Space Telescope continues to unravel questions about our universe and beyond, but one of its latest discoveries is, quite literally, a question mark.
Late last month, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) team at the European Space Agency (ESA) released an image offering a detailed look at two actively forming young stars.
And while the deep-space picture is stunning, it’s a giant cosmic question mark that appears in the background that has everyone, ahem, asking questions.
Is it aliens trying to tell us something? Is it the cosmos throwing questions back in our face? Is it The Riddler? What could possibly cause such a stylized piece of punctuation to appear on camera?
Well, according to the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, which is responsible for JWST’s operations, the most likely explanation is that the question mark is actually a remote galaxy or pair of galaxies getting tangled in each other’s gravitational pull.
“It is probably a distant galaxy, or potentially interacting galaxies (their interactions may have caused the distorted question mark-shape),” representatives of STScI told Space.com.
“This may be the first time we’ve seen this particular object,” STScI added. “Additional follow-up would be required to figure out what it is with any certainty. Webb is showing us many new, distant galaxies — so there’s a lot of new science to be done!”
The astronomers point to the colour of the question mark as being one of the biggest clues — the red hue suggests that the object is quite distant and resembles other deep-space galaxies picked up in the last year by JWST’s cameras.
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