Bruce Wayne may have given us the signal on Earth, but there’s a bat shadow in deep space.
The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a “curious ‘flapping’ motion” around the star HBC 627, nicknamed the “Bat Shadow.” The star is part of the Serpens Nebula, approximately 1,400 light-years from Earth. A light-year, which measures distance in space, is approximately 6 trillion miles.
The flapping, which was observed over a span of 404 days, could be the result of a planet “pulling on the disk and warping it,” according to a statement from NASA.
Astronomers using Hubble previously captured a remarkable image of a young star’s unseen, planet-forming disk casting a huge shadow across a more distant cloud in a star-forming region. The star is called HBC 672, and the shadow feature was nicknamed the “Bat Shadow” because it resembles a pair of wings. The nickname turned out to be unexpectedly appropriate, because now those “wings” appear to be flapping! (Credits: NASA, ESA, and STScI)
“You have a star that is surrounded by a disk, and the disk is not like Saturn’s rings – it’s not flat,” Klaus Pontoppidan, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “It’s puffed up. And so that means that if the light from the star goes straight up, it can continue straight up – it’s not blocked by anything. But if it tries to go along the plane of the disk, it doesn’t get out, and it casts a shadow.”
“The shadow moves. It’s flapping like the wings of a bird!” Pontoppidan added.
The Bat Shadow was first observed in 2018, Fox News previously reported.
Pontoppidan and the other researchers deduced that the exoplanet tugging on the star’s disk needs at least 180 days to orbit the star. It’s also believed to be approximately the same distance from its star that Earth is from the sun, or roughly 93 million miles.
It’s also possible that another exoplanet could also be in Bat Shadow’s disk, the researchers added.
The research can be read on the arXiv repository here and will appear in an upcoming version of The Astrophysical Journal.
If a “flapping” Bat Shadow isn’t enough for you Batman fans, Hubble discovered a “dynamic duo” of galaxies in December 2019.
Hubble, which was launched into low-Earth orbit in April 1990, celebrated its 30th anniversary in space earlier this year. Its eventual successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, described by NASA as the most powerful and complex space telescope ever built, is scheduled to launch on March 30, 2021.
Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this story.