Nebula's mysterious halo stumps astronomers

Space ghosts

A NEW image of a little-known nebula taken from the Hubble Space Telescope has astronomers wondering what's lighting it up.

NASA has released an image of IRAS 05437+2502, or "Ira's Ghost", after it was snapped by Hubble as a "bonus target" – part of a list of things for Hubble to do when it's got spare time.

Ira's Ghost was first discovered in 1983 and sits within our own galaxy in the constellation Taurus. It's known as a "reflection nebula" – a cloud of gas lit up by a light source – as opposed to an "emission nebula" which is lit up from within.

What makes this nebula unusual, apart from the fact it's both stunning and spooky, is there's so far no evidence of a light source.

Particularly one of the magnitude that has lit up the tip of one of its highest clouds with a blazing, boomerang-shaped halo.

The best explanation scientists have come up with so far is that Ira's Ghost was once visited by a high-velocity star spat out by its cluster and passing through at 200,000km/h.

However, given it's a "bonus target", they're not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.

For now, it's just another spectacular, mysterious flashpoint in the universe for us to wonder about.


Nebula's mysterious halo stumps astronomers |