12 Days of Inkfish, Day 8: Square Peg in a Round Universe

By Elizabeth Preston
Jan 2, 2013 6:18 AMNov 5, 2019 12:20 AM


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We can all agree there's too much round stuff in space, right? All those planets and stars and orbital paths and moon craters and disks of debris get old. The most variation you can usually hope for is an astroid shaped like a potato.

Here, for some relief, is the aptly named Red Square nebula. Researchers Peter Tuthill of Sydney University and James Lloyd of Cornell University created this image of the cloud, which surrounds a star called MWC 922.

The researchers think its square shape might be due to a lucky viewing angle on our part. The nebula may really be two cones of gas pointing outward, as if the star at the center were a cheerleader holding a giant megaphone in either hand. From our angle, the nebula looks like a giant X or square. If it turned 90 degrees, we'd find ourselves facing—yet again—some round stuff in space.

Image: Peter Tuthill, Sydney University Physics Dept., Palomar and W.M. Keck observatories (via APOD)

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