"Just in time for the release of the movie Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has photographed what looks like a cosmic, double-bladed lightsaber," writes NASA in a recent blog post. While some people might roll their eyes at this shameless piggybacking, who are we to disagree with America's favorite space agency, especially when the images in question are so damn spectacular?
The images show a protostar forming 1,350 light years away
The picture above and video below of this "cosmic lightsaber" are actually showing a section of the Orion B molecular cloud complex — a region within our own Milky Way galaxy some 1,350 light-years away — with a star forming in the center. The protostar's gravity is dragging the material around it into a rotating, flattened disk, with superheated material shooting out in massive jets from the top and bottom (along the star's rotational axis) to form lightsaber 'blades.' Although, as NASA's press release points out, most of the activity is obscured by a "dark, Jedi-like cloak of dust."
Well, okay, it is pretty silly. But NASA did just receive an unexpected budget increase from Congress, so perhaps it's celebrating the good news with its own space wordplay.