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Scientists explain what mysterious 'question mark' spotted by James Webb Space Telescope actually is

Scientists explain what mysterious 'question mark' spotted by James Webb Space Telescope actually is

The ESA released the image of two young stars that formed 1,470 light years from Earth.

When we look up at the sky, it's like a window to a whole other world.

Sometimes, we spot things that make us wonder, like shapes in the clouds or patterns in the stars.

But what about a question mark?

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has spent the last two and a bit years in space sending visual updates back to Earth with its high-tech Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam).

Thanks to its high-resolution near-infrared imaging, allowing it to peer into the far corners of the universe, the JWST can spot galaxies as distant as 13.4 million light-years away.

Some date back to the early days of the universe, so it's almost like looking back in time.

NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph DePasquale (STScI)
NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

The space telescope has also helped in the exploration of black holes, making discoveries that scientists previously believed to be 'impossible'.

While observing the pair of young stars dubbed Herbig-Haro 46/47, scientists discovered a 'question mark' figure in the night sky.

Is the universe asking us a question?

Well, the European Space Agency (ESA) released the image that they believed to be two young stars that formed some 1,470 light years from Earth.

A spokesperson at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, which runs Webb's scientific operations, said: 'It is probably a distant galaxy, or potentially interacting galaxies (their interactions may have caused the distorted question mark-shape).

'This may be the first time we've seen this particular object.

'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.'

24K-Production/Getty
24K-Production/Getty

Meanwhile, Kai Noeske, ESA communication program officer, claims that it 'looks like a group or a chance alignment of two or three galaxies'.

'The upper part of the question mark looks like a distorted spiral galaxy, maybe merging with a second galaxy.'

Assistant professor of physics at Illinois State University, Matt Caplan, believes the cosmic punctuation to be two galaxies merging.

'The two distinct features could easily be merging galaxies in the background, with the upper part of the question mark being part of a larger galaxy getting tidally disrupted.

'Given the color of some of the other background galaxies, this doesn't seem like the worst explanation. Despite how chaotic mergers are, double lobed objects with curvy tails extending away from them are very typical.'

Featured Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph DePasquale (STScI) / 24K-Production/Getty

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