The world is strange; the universe, stranger. Science is exploring new realms every day, and the cosmos keep gifting it with surprises. With much that we have sorted, much is yet to be figured out.
This article sums up 10 of the strangest objects spotted in space.
1. Hoag’s Object
The Hoag’s Object, discovered by Arthur Hoag in 1950, is a peculiar galaxy located approximately 600 million light-years away from the earth. It is located in the constellation of Serpens, which also houses the famous Eagle Nebula (a star-forming region).
Most galaxies can be classified under two main heads: Spiral and elliptical. Slight variations in morphology lead to an intermediate form, called lenticular galaxies. A peculiar galaxy, one to which the Hoag’s object belongs, does not fall into any of these categories. It is neither elliptical not spiral in shape, making it a matter of interest for the scientists.
The Hoag’s object is formed of two concentric rings, both of which lie at an equal distance from the earth. The outer ring is formed of blue stars, which surround an older bright yellow luminous center. The gap in between is completely dark and lacks any form of luminous bodies. Different scientists have proposed a number of theories over the years regarding the formation of the Hoag’s object, but the real causes remain unknown.
2. Crab nebula
The crab nebula, which lies approximately 6523 light-years away from the earth, is located in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. The nebula was first spotted in 1054 by Chinese astronomers and is considered a remnant of the constellation of Taurus. For a duration of two years from 4th July 1054, the nebula shoe bright in the night sky, after which it disappeared for hundreds of years. It was spotted again in 1731 by an English astronomer named John Bevis and has been closely studied since then.
The crab nebula is among the very few astronomical bodies whose radiations have been detected over the range of the entire measurable spectrum, i.e. from the gamma rays to the radio waves.
The light emitted by nebulas is either reflected starlight or a result of excitation of gases. Interestingly enough, the bright light emitted by the crab nebula is neither reflected starlight nor is a result of excited gases. The crab nebula houses a pulsar in its center, spinning at a speed of 30 rotations per second. The energy provided by this superfast rotation serves as the reason behind the nebula’s brightness.
Composed primarily of ice, Iapetus is the third-largest moon of Saturn. Iapetus was first spotted in 1671 by Giovanni Cassini on the western side of Saturn. In an attempt to study his newly found discovery, Cassini tried to track the moon’s orbit around Saturn. To his surprise, the moon disappeared on the eastern side of the planet. The same continued for three years until Cassini tried tracing its path again with a more advanced telescope. The mysterious moon was found six times fainter on the eastern side, making it invisible when viewed from older telescopes.
The surface of Iapetus has extremely low density and is mostly composed of ice with very low rocky materials. A chain of mountains informally called the Voyager Mountains circle the equator of the moon. These mountains cover more than half of the equator, spreading over an area of 800 miles. Hundreds of years after its discovery, facts about Iapetus still remained largely unknown until the early 2000s. The Cassini space probe was sent to space for further investigation in 2007, which confirmed the stated facts being true.
4. Epsilon Aurigae
Epsilon Aurigae is a binary star located approximately 2000 light years away from the earth, in the constellation of Auriga. A typical binary star system consists of two stars that either revolve around each other or around a common center. The unusual behavior of Epsilon Aurigae makes its binary-star status questionable. The Epsilon Aurigae is particularly known for its periodic brightening and dimming of light. The center of the system is brightly lit and is called F star. The light from the F star dims for a period of two years in every 27 years. The first dimming was successfully recorded in 1821.
Astronomers have suggested that the dimming occurs due to an eclipse, with the F-star’s companion blocking its way of light. However, it would require an unusually huge celestial body to cause an eclipse for a duration as long as two years. Scientists have tried to figure out the physical nature of matter surrounding the F star, but nothing substantial has been reported yet. With a new set of astronomers working on every next eclipse, the Epsilon Aurigae still remains one of the longest unsolved mysteries in the history of astronomy.
5. ARP 220
The ARP 220 is a peculiar galaxy formed by the collision of two spiral galaxies. It is located in the constellation of Serpens and lies about 250 million light-years away from the earth. The galaxies, as reported by the astronomers, collided approximately 700 million years ago and have been merging since then. ARP 220 is way smaller than the Milky Way in size, but the amount of gas in this galaxy almost equals to the amount of gas found in the entire Milky Way.
The center of ARP 220 is brightly illuminated and is composed of more than 200 huge star clusters. This center alone can form up to ten million suns. A record-breaking of seven supernovas were found at the same time in ARP 220 in 2011. Astronomers have also claimed the presence of organic molecules in the galaxy, which has added to the secrets of this star system. Containing two bright maser sources, ARP 220 is the closest Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxy (ULIRG) to earth.
6. Centaurus A
Located in the constellation of Centaurus, Centaurus A is the fifth brightest object in the night sky. It is a peculiar galaxy, discovered in 1826 by James Dunlop. The galaxy has a weird shape and is supposedly formed by the collision of an elliptical and a spiral galaxy.
The center of Cen A is a black hole, with a mass far greater than the mass of the black hole in the Milky Way Galaxy. Stars are formed in galaxies by the utilization of pieces from the interstellar dust. Cen A is dense and can provide for immense interstellar dust for the galaxy to use. Centaurus A, thus, is called a starburst galaxy, housing more than a hundred star-forming regions that are continuously producing stars.
7. Asteroid 90 Antiope
The Asteroid 90 Antiope is a twin asteroid found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It was discovered in 1866 by Robert Luther. They are located in the constellation of Gemini and belong to one of the very few twin celestial bodies. The two asteroids are almost equal in size and revolve around each other.
The twins belong to the Thermis family of asteroids, which is known for its high carbon contents. No wonder the asteroids are highly carbonaceous and have low density. Separated by a distance of approximately 171 kilometers, the Antiope orbit the outer third of the core asteroid belt.
The Elst-Pizzaro is a celestial body that possesses the features of both asteroids and comets. The comets in astronomy are celestial bodies that have tails and show comae, a term for gravitationally unbound atmospheres. The asteroids, on the other hand, do not show any of these characteristics. However, these characteristics mix up in certain cases, and the Elst-Pizzaro is one of the few examples.
The comet cum asteroid was given the status of a comet post-inspection by astronomers after its discovery. Tracking of its orbit later led conclusions of it being an asteroid. This unusual behavior is suspected to have been caused due to its composition, which is probably icy. The Elst-Pizzaro has come to perihelion thrice, with its first occurrence recorded in 1996 and the last in 2013.
9. Sagittarius A*
Located near the border of Sagittarius and Scorpius, the Sagittarius A* is a bright, compact region that emits radio waves. With mass, 4.6 million times the mass of our sun, Sagittarius A* is likely the location of a black hole. The study of Sagittarius A* has been difficult due to a number of reasons, including the effect of dust and gas between the subject and the earth. However, astronomers have been using radio waves and X-Rays as a method of study to gain knowledge about this mysterious area of super high gravity.
10. SDSS J090745.0+024507
The SDSS J090745.0+024507 is a short period hypervelocity star that is most likely emitted from the Blackhole in the Galactic center. It is blue in color and belongs to the Milky Way. Hypervelocity stars are stars that move faster than normal stars, making them difficult to study. It is highly assumed that the star could’ve been a part of a galaxy that got close to the black hole and was consumed in, with SDSS J090745.0+024507 being its only survivor.