Cosmic question mark – literally

SPACE (KXAN) – A new photo from the James Webb Space Telescope is leading to a giant question – or moreover one about a giant question mark.

The photo was released by the European Space Agency on July 26. This week, people online noticed what appeared to be a “question mark” (?) in the image.

So what in the cosmos formed the apparent punctuation mark in space?

A recent image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope shows what appears to be a “question mark” in deep space. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, J. DePasquale (STScI), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

The original image shows two stars, Herbig-Haro 46/47, forming in the center of a disc of gas and dust, according to the ESA. Just beneath the stars, the “question mark” can be spotted.

In an interview with, a representative of Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) said the object is likely one or more galaxies “interacting.” The red color implies it is quite distant, according to STScI. reported that this may be the first astronomer sighting of the question mark in space.

In the full image released by the ESA, James Webb Space Telescope, a tightly bound pair of actively forming stars, known as Herbig-Haro 46/47, in near-infrared light. The question mark can be found near the bottom-center of the image. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, J. DePasquale (STScI), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

The James Webb Space Telescope recently celebrated one year of operation. Webb is the largest space telescope ever launched and is frequently called a “time machine” for its ability to look billions of years in the past.

It’s considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting Earth for 33 years. A joint NASA-European Space Agency effort, Webb scans the universe from a more distant perch, 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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