People are freaking out over a question mark seen in space. Scientists can explain

A question mark-shaped formation captured by the James Webb Space Telescope is attracting attention, which scientists say appears to be two or more merging galaxies.

Unusual sighting: The recently released image shows a pair of actively forming stars, Herbig-Haro 46/47, but an orange formation resembling a question mark at the bottom of the frame sparked interest.
* The European Space Agency confirmed that the shape is real and not a hoax.
* Macarena Garcia Marin, a Webb project scientist, suggested that this resonates with people due to our tendency to find familiar shapes in nature.

Making sense of it: The question mark shape, apparently formed by merging galaxies, is thought to be down to several factors including their position relative to each other and our perspective.
* Nora Luetzgendorf from ESA suggested the arc of the question mark might result from the tidal interaction between the galaxies, and the dot could potentially be a smaller spherical galaxy.

Learning opportunity: Despite being a common phenomenon, galaxy mergers are vital for understanding more about the universe.
* They can trigger the formation of stars, meaning “objects like HH 46/47, the main subject of the image, could be born,” said Garcia Marin.
* Furthermore, the shape of the merging galaxies could potentially offer further insight into galactic evolution.

Public response: The image has garnered much attention on social media, with users delightedly drawing connections between the unexpected shape and the mysteries of the universe.
* One Reddit user humorously suggested: “The aliens know we’ve found them and now they’re just messing with us.”

View original article on NPR

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