NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured an eerie interstellar image earlier this summer. The space agency released the photo to kick off Halloween week. Goddard Space Flight Center also posted a fun, spine-tingling video of the scary discovery on YouTube.
Of course, Hubble’s chilling image is not really an alien monster casting its ominous gaze upon the Earth. However, the spooky space form’s true identity might be even more frightening.
Intergalactic Head-On Collision
The “ghost’s” two “eyes” are the bright cores of a pair of galaxies that met in a violent head-on collision. According to a NASA report, a ring of young blue stars outlines the “face.” Meanwhile, clumps of new stars form the space specter’s “mouth” and “nose.”
Collectively, astronomers catalog the entire system as “Arp-Madore 2026-424 (AM 2026-424).” Galaxy collisions frequently happen. However, head-on impacts like the one that created the Arp-Madore system rarely occur. Researchers suggest that the ring shape produced by the crash is short-lived. As such, this creepy formation might only last about 100 million years.
Ultimately, the vibrant band of stars that make up the ghost’s “nose” and “face” formed after the pair of galaxies collided. Consequently, the impact “stretched the galaxies’ disks of gas, dust, and stars outward” to make this unique structure.
“The galaxies have to collide at just the right orientation to create the ring,” NASA reported in a statement. “The galaxies will merge completely in about 1 to 2 billion years, hiding their messy past.”
Another rare phenomenon caused the ghoulish form’s eyes to look almost the same size. Big, neighboring galaxies typically swallow smaller galaxies. However, these colliding giants appear to be the same size. Thus, the unusual symmetry presents a haunting “face” with deep-set, skull-like eyes.
Overall, the unsettling image seems a little surreal. Instead of existing 704 million light-years from Earth, it seems like the creepy space “face” could leer down in an episode of “Tales From the Crypt.”
More Freaky Finds
The Hubble Space Telescope has ironically made some other eerie discoveries. Last week, NASA posted another image captured by the orbiting system called “Medusa in the Sky.”
The “Medusa merger” photo reflects what happened when an early galaxy “consumed a smaller, gas-rich system.” The streams of dust and stars shooting out of the merged galaxies’ core notably look a lot like the mythological monster’s slithering snakes.
Meanwhile, the Spitzer Space Telescope eyed a massive star that’s about 15 to 20 times heavier than the sun that looks like a giant interstellar pumpkin. Researchers fittingly dubbed the celestial body the “Jack-o’-lantern Nebula.”
Hubble scientists captured the “ghost” face this summer as part of a “snapshot program” that studies unusual characteristics of interacting galaxies.
Overall, NASA plans to use Hubble’s detailed observational data to pick targets for the James Webb Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2021.