Hubble/WFPC2 captures the void in 2000. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This Region of Space Is Empty, and Scientists Don’t Know Why

There's a mysterious Hole in Space located in the Constellation of Orion.


There is an unexplained cosmic phenomenon located 1,500 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Orion.

South of the large star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula lies a mysterious structure dubbed NGC 1999.


NGC 199 is actually a dust-filled bright nebula. And while it may seem like many other similar nebulae out there, this one is unique for an important reason: it has a vast hole of empty space, represented by a black patch of sky.

The overall NGC 1999 nebula with smaller hole shown in context. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The overall NGC 1999 nebula with smaller hole shown in context. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Previous studies assumed that the mysterious black patch in the sky was, in fact, due to an extremely dense cloud of dust and gas that blocked all light that normally passes through.

Such structures are referred to as dark nebulas.

dark nebula or absorption nebula is a type of interstellar cloud that is so dense that it obscures the light from objects behind it.

However, analysis of this region of the sky using the infrared Herschel telescope (which can penetrate such dense cloud material) on October 9, 2009, revealed in continued ‘black space.’

This mean two things:

  1. Either the cloud material was so dense that we simply couldn’t peer through it;
  2. Or scientists have detected an unexplained phenomenon in outer space.
Hubble/WFPC2 captured the void in 2000. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Follow-up studies supported by ground-based observations using the submillimeter bolometer cameras on the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment radio telescope and the Mayall (Kitt Peak) and Magellan telescopes deepened the mystery.

Scientists determined that the mysterious patch of dark space is not black because of extremely dense gas pockets, but because there’s actually nothing there; it is truly empty space.

This is one of the greatest cosmic mysteries discovered to date.

In fact, scientists have still not been able to explain how something like NGC 1999 can exist fully.

Some astronomers speculate that the cause of this empty space is jets of hot gas coming from young stars that have helped created a hole through space.

Others believe that powerful radiation from nearby stars helped created this mysterious emptiness.

The exact reason behind the empty space remains subject to speculation.

Understanding the cause of this strange cosmic phenomenon could help us better understand how stars are formed in outer space.


The NGC 1999 nebula is illuminated by a bright, recently formed star, visible in the Hubble photo (above)  just to the left of the center.

This star is cataloged as V380 Orionis, and its white color is due to its high surface temperature of about 10,000 degrees Celsius (nearly twice that of our own Sun). Its mass is estimated to be 3.5 times that of the Sun.

The star is so young that it is still surrounded by a cloud of material leftover from its formation, here seen as the NGC 1999 reflection nebula.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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