Star Wars-style lightsaber spotted in space by Nasa

The huge, celestial light isn’t in a galaxy far, far away — it’s in our own Milky Way, about 1,350 light-years from us

Andrew Griffin
Friday 18 December 2015 11:12
Nasa - Celestial Lightsabers

Nasa has spotted a huge lightsaber cutting through space, in an area of space clouds where new stars are born.

The agency has released images of a bright, celestial light resembling the weapons wielded in Star Wars cutting through the darkness of space. Part of the image is obscured by a cloud of dust, but the image shows a newborn star shooting twin jets out into space, announcing its new birth to the universe.

Noting that the sight was “just in time for the release” of the film, Nasa described how the Hubble telescope had seen “what looks like a cosmic, double-bladed lightsaber”.

The vision isn’t in the “galaxy far, far away” of Star Wars. It’s in our own Milky Way, and was found about 1,350 light years from us.

The picture shows the light coming out of the Orion B molecular cloud complex. That turbulent area of space is a kind of breeding ground for new stars, and it’s one of those that sent up the bright lightsaber into space.

The images from the Hubble telescope show superheated material spilling up and out of the star along an escape route. That material comes about because of the flattened disk that surrounds new stars, which then drops gas onto the protostar and causes it to engorge and then shot out its excess material across space.

This celestial lightsaber does not lie in a galaxy far, far away, but rather inside our home galaxy, the Milky Way. It's inside a turbulent birthing ground for new stars known as the Orion B molecular cloud complex, located 1,350 light-years away

Hubble was able to capture the images in infrared, which meant that it could see the bright material as it streamed through space. Nasa will hope to look in even more detail at such jets when it launched the James Webb Space Telescope, which will have even better infrared vision to allow it to see even more of the dust that surrounds stars as they form.

“Science fiction has been an inspiration to generations of scientists and engineers, and the film series Star Wars is no exception,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission directorate. “There is no stronger case for the motivational power of real science than the discoveries that come from the Hubble Space Telescope as it unravels the mysteries of the universe."

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