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The Student News Site of The Woodlands College Park High School

The Paladin

The Student News Site of The Woodlands College Park High School

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Cosmic Question Mark Found in Space

European Space Agency
Photograph taken of question mark from James Webb Space Telescope

While capturing a picture of actively forming stars over 1,400 light years away, the James Webb Space Telescope captured something more questionable,  a ginormous, glowing, galactic question mark. Rapidly, this image was spread everywhere on social media, generating hundreds of memes, and even more questions. 

Though scientists are unsure of what exactly the question mark is, they have many theories. “It is probably a distant galaxy, or potentially interacting galaxies,” said the Space Telescope Science Institute in a response to, and concluded their interactions may have caused the distorted question mark shape. This theory is supported by Matt Caplan, Assistant Professor of Physics at Illinois State University, who told, “The two distinct features could easily be merging galaxies in the background, with the upper part of the question mark being part of a larger galaxy getting tidally disrupted.”

“It’s probably just the way we’re seeing the light, maybe it’s been bent or it’s just our view point,” Astronomy Teacher Coach Minchew said. 

While we are largely left with theories concerning this question mark, there are some definite facts. Caplan assured CNN that, “The very first thing you can rule out is that it’s a star in the Milky Way.”

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Scientists are not the only ones talking about this. Memes and gag theories have been popping up on the internet left and right. Some joke that the sign is  a sign from a very worn out god; and some say it is part of our computer simulation. Others say aliens are toying with us. Even many gamers have started claiming it’s a side quest marker, such as the type commonly found in RPG video games. Most of us just think it is ironic!

But, could it be aliens? Coach Minchew argued, “Statistically, it’s very improbable we’re alone…would we ever be able to contact them? Who knows cause it’s so far away. I mean we’re talking about light years [away], and millions of those at that.” So, it is probably not aliens. 

But whatever this mysterious symbol turns out to be, what it represents is, in essence, anthropomorphizing our curiosities about the universe. We have been looking up at the stars and pondering for thousands of years, and always feeling a sense of something bigger than us – of a whole universe filled with mysteries to uncover. “We like to go into what is unknown, we want to know what is out there, humans are inquisitive normally, it kinda points to that aspect of your makeup,” Minchew said. This symbol perfectly encapsulates the mystery and the wonder of space.

Looking up at the stars at night gives us perspective, maybe we don’t know everything, but maybe that’s what makes life so interesting. Like Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”

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Nyx Garibi-Moreyra, Newswriter

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