The constellation Orion has fascinated humanity for thousands of years.
Almost all cultures on the globe have myths and folklore associated with this charming constellation visible in the night sky.
The Egyptians, for example, have claimed that their god Osiris descended on Earth from Orion, and some researchers even believe that the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids by imitating stars in the sky.
Based on the constellations and the position of the stars, the ancients built fascinating monuments, calendars and “observatories” that allowed them to trace the position of the constellations and celestial bodies across the sky.
After all, many cultures have claimed that, from these constellations, “creator gods” have descended to Earth.
But in addition to the fact that Orion was very important in ancient times, giving rise to fascination among early astronomers, the constellation still puzzles modern-day scientists who are constantly exploring space.
A mystery in deep space
About 1500 light-years from Earth, south of the constellation Orion, is found mysterious structure (it’s actually a nebula) called NGC 1999.
At first glance, it may not seem like much, but the truth is that this is one of the greatest cosmic discoveries made by modern astronomers.
NGC 1999 is actually a bright nebula and despite the fact that it may look like many other nebulae, this one has one characteristic that no other nebula has: it’s empty.
This is some mystery to astronomers.
Trying to explain the black patch in space, scientists first suggested that the black patch in the sky was caused by extremely thick cloud of gas and dust which prevents light from passing through and thus gives the impression that the region of the sky is black with no stars.
This type of cosmic structure is called dark nebulae or absorbent nebulae. They are a kind of interstellar cloud that is so dense that it obscures all the light behind the objects behind it.
To make sure that NGC 1999 is, in fact, a dark nebula, scientists have directed Herschel’s telescope to observe it.
The Herschel telescope, unlike other telescopes, has the ability to penetrate thick clouds of gas, such as those found in dark nebulae.
But the observations revealed a worrying fact. When the Herschel telescope monitored NGC 1999, it found that it was indeed empty.
It’s weird, according to what we know about the universe. But it could mean two things. Either the cloud material of NGC 1999 is so thick that we simply do not have the means to penetrate it, or NGC 1999 is an unexplained phenomenon in outer space.
As Herschel’s observations revealed a “void”, subsequent studies were performed using submillimeter bolometers mounted on the Atacama Pattinder experimental radio telescope and the Mayol (Kit Peak) and Magellan telescopes.
These subsequent studies deepened the mystery.
Scientists have come to the conclusion that the mysterious “patch of emptiness” is not black because of the dense material in it, but because it is indeed an empty space.
This means that NGC 1999 is one of the rarest cosmic mysteries ever discovered by scientists.
However, despite the fact that NGC 1999 remains unexplained, scientists have speculated that the piece of empty space could be caused by extremely powerful bursts of hot gas emanating from young stars in the vicinity that helped form a massive hole in space.
Others theorize that the slice of black sky is caused by extremely powerful radiation coming from nearby stars.