NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was capturing images of stars and galaxies when a familiar object appeared in the distant universe.
Scientists noticed a gigantic, glowing question mark-shaped object from the telescope’s perspective.
Was the universe playing tricks? What exactly is it?
Scientists believe it to be a pair of galaxies merging together, which just so happened to appear in an uncanny formation.
A galaxy is a collection of gas, dust, and billions of stars and their solar systems, which are held together by gravity, according to NASA. When the galaxies collide, mergers can occur.
"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," Matt Caplan, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois State University, told Space.com.
“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,” he said.
Representatives of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, which manages the James Webb Telescope’s operations, also believe it could be interacting galaxies or a distant galaxy.
"This may be the first time we've seen this particular object," STScI told Space.com. "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!"
What’s for sure is that the red coloration signifies that whatever it is, is quite distant.
This is the first time scientists have seen the cosmic question mark.
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