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Sci-Tech

NASA Hubble telescope eyes cosmic 'bat shadow' in Serpens Nebula

Paging Batman. The superhero might want to take a look at the eerie Bat-Signal about 1,300 light-years away.

The Serpens Nebula is about 1,300 light-years away. The Bat Shadow appears in the upper right.

NASA, ESA, and STScI

"Bat Shadow in the Serpent's Tail" should be the name of a heavy-metal album. But it's actually the term the European Space Agency used to describe a new image from the Hubble Space Telescope

The eerie image shows part of a star-forming region called the Serpens Nebula, which dwells in the tail of the Serpent constellation. It's home to a young star called HCD 672, which has a thick protoplanetary disk of gas and dust around it. 

Now here's where the Bat Shadow comes in. The star's debris ring is too small and distant to be seen by Hubble, but the disk casts monster shadows onto the nebula. The two cone-like shadows in the upper right of the image are known as the Bat Shadow thanks to the wing-like appearance. It's as close as we'll get to seeing a Bat-Signal among the stars.

"This is an analog of what the solar system looked like when it was only 1 or 2 million years old," said Klaus Pontoppidan, a Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) astronomer. "For all we know, the solar system once created a shadow like this."  

Hubble is a joint project from NASA and ESA, which both shared details of the uncanny image on Halloween. There's no word on whether Batman plans to respond to the Bat-Signal.