Green clouds of gas tens of thousands of light-years wide blaze in a series of stunning new images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
The ethereal wisps in these images were illuminated, perhaps briefly, by a blast of radiation from a quasar — a very luminous and compact region that surrounds a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy. Galactic material falls inwards towards the central black hole, growing hotter and hotter, forming a bright and brilliant quasar with powerful jets of particles and energy beaming above and below the disc of infalling matter.
In each of these eight images a quasar beam has caused once-invisible filaments in deep space to glow through a process called photoionisation. Oxygen, helium, nitrogen, sulphur and neon in the filaments absorb light from the quasar and slowly re-emit it over many thousands of years. Their unmistakable emerald hue is caused by ionised oxygen, which glows green.
These ghostly structures are so far from the galaxy’s heart that it would have taken light from the quasar tens of thousands of years to reach them and light them up. So, although the quasars themselves have turned off, the green clouds will continue to glow for much longer before they too fade.
“In each of these eight images, a quasar beam has caused once-invisible filaments in deep space to glow through a process called photoionization,” officials with the European Space Agency (ESA), which partners with NASA on the Hubble project, wrote in a statement.
“Oxygen, helium, nitrogen, sulphur and neon in the filaments absorb light from the quasar and slowly re-emit it over many thousands of years,” the officials added. “Their unmistakable emerald hue is caused by ionized oxygen, which glows green.”
Not only are the green filaments far from the centres of their host galaxies, they are also immense in size, spanning tens of thousands of light-years. They are thought to be long tails of gas formed during a violent past merger between galaxies — this event would have caused strong gravitational forces that would rip apart the galactic participants.
Despite their turbulent past, these ghostly filaments are now leisurely orbiting within or around their new host galaxies. These Hubble images show bright, braided and knotted streams of gas, in some cases connected to twisted lanes of dark dust.
“Galactic mergers do not just alter the forms of the previously serene galaxies involved; they also trigger extreme cosmic phenomena,” ESA officials wrote in the statement. “Such a merger could also have caused the birth of a quasar, by pouring material into the galaxies’ supermassive black holes.”
The first object of this type was found in 2007 by Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel (heic1102). She discovered the ghostly structure in the online Galaxy Zoo project, a project enlisting the help of the public to classify more than a million galaxies catalogued in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The bizarre feature was dubbed Hanny’s Voorwerp (Dutch for Hanny’s object).
These objects were found in a spin-off of the Galaxy Zoo project, in which about 200 volunteers examined over 16 000 galaxy images in the SDSS to identify the best candidates for clouds similar to Hanny’s Voorwerp. A team of researchers analysed these and found a total of twenty galaxies that had gas ionised by quasars. Their results appear in a paper in the Astronomical Journal.
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- And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke (Acts 2:19 KJV).
- “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars…” Luke 21:25 (KJV).
- But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up – 2 Peter 3:10 (KJV).
- And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree – Isaiah 34:4 (KJV).
- And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken -Mark 13:25 (KJV).
- And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind – Revelation 6:13 (KJV).
- He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names -Psalm 147:4 (KJV).
- For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse – Romans 1:20 (KJV).
- By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth – Psalm 33:6 (KJV).
- He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end – Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV).
- Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear – Hebrews 11:3 (KJV).
- Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:- Amos 5:8 (KJV).
- Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth – Isaiah 40:26 (KJV).
- To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork -Psalm 19:1 (KJV).
- Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars. Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number – Job 9:9-10 (KJV).