Wonders of the universe
Hidden in one of the darkest corners of the Orion constellation, this Cosmic Bat is spreading its hazy wings through interstellar space two thousand light-years away. It is illuminated by the young stars nestled in its core — despite being shrouded by opaque clouds of dust, their bright rays still illuminate the nebula.
In this illustration, several dust rings circle the sun. These rings form when planets' gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury's orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus' dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.
This is an artist's impression of globular star clusters surrounding the Milky Way.
An artist's impression of life on a planet in orbit around a binary star system, visible as two suns in the sky.
An artist's illustration of one of the most distant solar system objects yet observed, 2018 VG18 -- also known as "Farout." The pink hue suggests the presence of ice. We don't yet have an idea of what "FarFarOut" looks like.
This is an artist's concept of the tiny moon Hippocamp that was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope. Only 20 miles across, it may actually be a broken-off fragment from a much larger neighboring moon, Proteus, seen as a crescent in the background.
In this illustration, an asteroid (bottom left) breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207 3331, the oldest, coldest white dwarf known to be surrounded by a ring of dusty debris. Scientists think the system's infrared signal is best explained by two distinct rings composed of dust supplied by crumbling asteroids.
An artist's impression of the warped and twisted Milky Way disk. This happens when the rotational forces of the massive center of the galaxy tug on the outer disk.
This 1.3-kilometer (0.8-mile)-radius Kuiper Belt Object discovered by researchers on the edge of the solar system is believed to be the step between balls of dust and ice and fully formed planets.
A selfie taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Vera Rubin Ridge before it moves to a new location.
The Hubble Space Telescope found a dwarf galaxy hiding behind a big star cluster that's in our cosmic neighborhood. It's so old and pristine that researchers have dubbed it a "living fossil" from the early universe.
How did massive black holes form in the early universe? The rotating gaseous disk of this dark matter halo breaks apart into three clumps that collapse under their own gravity to form supermassive stars. Those stars will quickly collapse and form massive black holes.
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured this image of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to our own Milky Way galaxy. Astrophysicists now believe it could collide with our galaxy in two billion years.
A mysterious bright object in the sky, dubbed "The Cow," was captured in real time by telescopes around the world. Astronomers believe that it could be the birth of a black hole or neutron star, or a new class of object.
An illustration depicts the detection of a repeating fast radio burst from a mysterious source 3 billion light-years from Earth.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen will pass within 7 million miles of Earth on December 16. It's ghostly green coma is the size of Jupiter, even though the comet itself is about three-quarters of a mile in diameter.
This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on December 2 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles.
This image of a globular cluster of stars by the Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most ancient collections of stars known. The cluster, called NGC 6752, is more than 10 billion years old.
An image of Apep captured with the VISIR camera on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. This "pinwheel" star system is most likely doomed to end in a long-duration gamma-ray burst.
An artist's impression of galaxy Abell 2597, showing the supermassive black hole expelling cold molecular gas like the pump of a giant intergalactic fountain.
An image of the Wild Duck Cluster, where every star is roughly 250 million years old.
These images reveal the final stage of a union between pairs of galactic nuclei in the messy cores of colliding galaxies.
A radio image of hydrogen gas in the Small Magellanic Cloud. Astronomers believe that the dwarf galaxy is slowly dying and will eventually be consumed by the Milky Way.
Further evidence of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy has been found. This visualization uses data from simulations of orbital motions of gas swirling around about 30% of the speed of light on a circular orbit around the black hole.
Does this look like a bat to you? This giant shadow comes from a bright star reflecting against the dusty disk surrounding it.
Hey, Bennu! NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, on its way to meet the primitive asteroid Bennu, is sending back images as it gets closer to its December 3 target.
These three panels reveal a supernova before, during and after it happened 920 million light-years from Earth(from left to right). The supernova, dubbed iPTF14gqr, is unusual because although the star was massive, its explosion was quick and faint. Researchers believe this is due to a companion star that siphoned away its mass.
This is an artist's illustration of what a Neptune-size moon would look like orbiting the gas giant exoplanet Kepler-1625b in a star system 8,000 light-years from Earth. It could be the first exomoon ever discovered.
An artist's illustration of Planet X, which could be shaping the orbits of smaller extremely distant outer solar system objects like 2015 TG387.
This is an artist's concept of what SIMP J01365663 0933473 might look like. It has 12.7 times the mass of Jupiter but a magnetic field 200 times more powerful than Jupiter's. This object is 20 light-years from Earth. It's on the boundary line between being a planet or being a brown dwarf.
The Andromeda galaxy cannibalized and shredded the once-large galaxy M32p, leaving behind this compact galaxy remnant known as M32. It is completely unique and contains a wealth of young stars.
Twelve new moons have been found around Jupiter. This graphic shows various groupings of the moons and their orbits, with the newly discovered ones shown in bold.
Scientists and observatories around the world were able to trace a high-energy neutrino to a galaxy with a supermassive, rapidly spinning black hole at its center, known as a blazar. The galaxy sits to the left of Orion's shoulder in his constellation and is about 4 billion light-years from Earth.
'Oumuamua, the first observed interstellar visitor to our solar system, is shown in an artist's illustration.
Planets don't just appear out of thin air -- but they do require gas, dust and other processes not fully understood by astronomers. This is an artist's impression of what "infant" planets look like forming around a young star.
These negative images of 2015 BZ509, which is circled in yellow, show the first known interstellar object that has become a permanent part of our solar system. The exo-asteroid was likely pulled into our solar system from another star system 4.5 billion years ago. It then settled into a retrograde orbit around Jupiter.
A close look at the diamond matrix in a meteorite that landed in Sudan in 2008. This is considered to be the first evidence of a proto-planet that helped form the terrestrial planets in our solar system.
2004 EW95 is the first carbon-rich asteroid confirmed to exist in the Kuiper Belt and a relic of the primordial solar system. This curious object probably formed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter before being flung billions of miles to its current home in the Kuiper Belt.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 28th anniversary in space with this stunning and colorful image of the Lagoon Nebula 4,000 light-years from Earth. While the whole nebula is 55 light-years across, this image only reveals a portion of about four light-years.
This is a more star-filled view of the Lagoon Nebula, using Hubble's infrared capabilities. The reason you can see more stars is because infrared is able to cut through the dust and gas clouds to reveal the abundance of both young stars within the nebula, as well as more distant stars in the background.
The Rosette Nebula is 5,000 light-years from Earth. The distinctive nebula, which some claim looks more like a skull, has a hole in the middle that creates the illusion of its rose-like shape.
KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star or Tabby's Star, is 1,000 light-years from us. It's 50% bigger than our sun and 1,000 degrees hotter. And it doesn't behave like any other star, dimming and brightening sporadically. Dust around the star, depicted here in an artist's illustration, may be the most likely cause of its strange behavior.
This inner slope of a Martian crater has several of the seasonal dark streaks called "recurrent slope lineae," or RSL, that a November 2017 report interprets as granular flows, rather than darkening due to flowing water. The image is from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
This artist's impression shows a supernova explosion, which contains the luminosity of 100 million suns. Supernova iPTF14hls, which has exploded multiple times, may be the most massive and longest-lasting ever observed.
This illustration shows hydrocarbon compounds splitting into carbon and hydrogen inside ice giants, such as Neptune, turning into a "diamond (rain) shower."
This striking image is the stellar nursery in the Orion Nebula, where stars are born. The red filament is a stretch of ammonia molecules measuring 50 light-years long. The blue represents the gas of the Orion Nebula. This image is a composite of observation from the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope and NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explore telescope. "We still don't understand in detail how large clouds of gas in our Galaxy collapse to form new stars," said Rachel Friesen, one of the collaboration's co-Principal Investigators. "But ammonia is an excellent tracer of dense, star-forming gas."
This is an illustration of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. The NASA probe will explore the sun's atmosphere in a mission that begins in the summer of 2018.
See that tiny dot between Saturn's rings? That's Earth, as seen by the Cassini mission on April 12, 2017. "Cassini was 870 million miles away from Earth when the image was taken," according to NASA. "Although far too small to be visible in the image, the part of Earth facing Cassini at the time was the southern Atlantic Ocean." Much like the famous "pale blue dot" image captured by Voyager 1 in 1990, we are but a point of light when viewed from the furthest planet in the solar system.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, using infrared technology, reveals the density of stars in the Milky Way. According to NASA, the photo -- stitched together from nine images -- contains more than a half-million stars. The star cluster is the densest in the galaxy.
This photo of Saturn's large icy moon, Tethys, was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which sent back some jaw-dropping images from the ringed planet.
This is what Earth and its moon look like from Mars. The image is a composite of the best Earth image and the best moon image taken on November 20, 2016, by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The orbiter's camera takes images in three wavelength bands: infrared, red and blue-green. Mars was about 127 million miles from Earth when the images were taken.
PGC 1000714 was initially thought to be a common elliptical galaxy, but a closer analysis revealed the incredibly rare discovery of a Hoag-type galaxy. It has a round core encircled by two detached rings.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft took these images of the planet's mysterious hexagon-shaped jetstream in December 2016. The hexagon was discovered in images taken by the Voyager spacecraft in the early 1980s. It's estimated to have a diameter wider than two Earths.
A dead star gives off a greenish glow in this Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula, located about 6,500 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. NASA released the image for Halloween 2016 and played up the theme in its press release. The agency said the "ghoulish-looking object still has a pulse." At the center of the Crab Nebula is the crushed core, or "heart" of an exploded star. The heart is spinning 30 times per second and producing a magnetic field that generates 1 trillion volts, NASA said.
Peering through the thick dust clouds of the galactic bulge, an international team of astronomers revealed the unusual mix of stars in the stellar cluster known as Terzan 5. The new results indicate that Terzan 5 is one of the bulge's primordial building blocks, most likely the relic of the very early days of the Milky Way.
An artist's conception of Planet Nine, which would be the farthest planet within our solar system. The similar cluster orbits of extreme objects on the edge of our solar system suggest a massive planet is located there.
An illustration of the orbits of the new and previously known extremely distant Solar System objects. The clustering of most of their orbits indicates that they are likely be influenced by something massive and very distant, the proposed Planet X.
Say hello to dark galaxy Dragonfly 44. Like our Milky Way, it has a halo of spherical clusters of stars around its core.
A classical nova occurs when a white dwarf star gains matter from its secondary star (a red dwarf) over a period of time, causing a thermonuclear reaction on the surface that eventually erupts in a single visible outburst. This creates a 10,000-fold increase in brightness, depicted here in an artist's rendering.
Gravitational lensing and space warping are visible in this image of near and distant galaxies captured by Hubble.
At the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, researchers discovered an X-shaped structure within a tightly packed group of stars.
Meet UGC 1382: What astronomers thought was a normal elliptical galaxy (left) was actually revealed to be a massive disc galaxy made up of different parts when viewed with ultraviolet and deep optical data (center and right). In a complete reversal of normal galaxy structure, the center is younger than its outer spiral disk.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of the Crab Nebula and its "beating heart," which is a neutron star at the right of the two bright stars in the center of this image. The neutron star pulses 30 times a second. The rainbow colors are visible due to the movement of materials in the nebula occurring during the time-lapse of the image.
The Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of a hidden galaxy that is fainter than Andromeda or the Milky Way. This low surface brightness galaxy, called UGC 477, is over 110 million light-years away in the constellation of Pisces.
On April 19, NASA released new images of bright craters on Ceres. This photo shows the Haulani Crater, which has evidence of landslides from its rim. Scientists believe some craters on the dwarf planet are bright because they are relatively new.
This illustration shows the millions of dust grains NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sampled near Saturn. A few dozen of them appear to have come from beyond our solar system.
This image from the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile shows a stunning concentration of galaxies known as the Fornax Cluster, which can be found in the Southern Hemisphere. At the center of this cluster, in the middle of the three bright blobs on the left side of the image, lies a cD galaxy -- a galactic cannibal that has grown in size by consuming smaller galaxies.
This image shows the central region of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The young and dense star cluster R136, which contains hundreds of massive stars, is visible in the lower right of the image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
In March 2016, astronomers published a paper on powerful red flashes coming from binary system V404 Cygni in 2015. This illustration shows a black hole, similar to the one in V404 Cygni, devouring material from an orbiting star.
A new map of the Milky Way was released February 24, 2016, giving astronomers a full census of the star-forming regions within our own galaxy. The APEX telescope in Chile captured this survey.
This image shows the elliptical galaxy NGC 4889, deeply embedded within the Coma galaxy cluster. There is a gigantic supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.
An artist's impression of 2MASS J2126, which takens 900,000 years to orbit its star, 1 trillion kilometers away.
Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune.
An international team of astronomers may have discovered the biggest and brightest supernova ever. The explosion was 570 billion times brighter than the sun and 20 times brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy combined, according to a statement from The Ohio State University, which is leading the study. Scientists are straining to define the supernova's strength. This image shows an artist's impression of the supernova as it would appear from an exoplanet located about 10,000 light years away.
Astronomers noticed huge waves of gas being "burped" by the black hole at the center of NGC 5195, a small galaxy 26 million light years from Earth. The team believes the outburst is a consequence of the interaction of NGC 5195 with a nearby galaxy.
An artist's illustration shows a binary black hole found in the quasar at the center of the Markarian 231 galaxy. Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered the galaxy being powered by two black holes "furiously whirling about each other," the space agency said in a news release.
An artist's impression of what a black hole might look like. In February, researchers in China said they had spotted a super-massive black hole 12 billion times the size of the sun.
Are there are oceans on any of Jupiter's moons? The Juice probe shown in this artist's impression aims to find out. Picture courtesy of ESA/AOES
Astronomers have discovered powerful auroras on a brown dwarf that is 20 light-years away. This is an artist's concept of the phenomenon.
Venus, bottom, and Jupiter shine brightly above Matthews, North Carolina, on Monday, June 29. The apparent close encounter, called a conjunction, has been giving a dazzling display in the summer sky. Although the two planets appear to be close together, in reality they are millions of miles apart.
Jupiter's icy moon Europa may be the best place in the solar system to look for extraterrestrial life, according to NASA. The moon is about the size of Earth's moon, and there is evidence it has an ocean beneath its frozen crust that may hold twice as much water as Earth. NASA's 2016 budget includes a request for $30 million to plan a mission to investigate Europa. The image above was taken by the Galileo spacecraft on November 25, 1999. It's a 12-frame mosaic and is considered the the best image yet of the side of Europa that faces Jupiter.
This nebula, or cloud of gas and dust, is called RCW 34 or Gum 19. The brightest areas you can see are where the gas is being heated by young stars. Eventually the gas burst outward like champagne after a bottle is uncorked. Scientists call this champagne flow. This new image of the nebula was captured by the European Space Organization's Very Large Telescope in Chile. RCW 34 is in the constellation Vela in the southern sky. The name means "sails of a ship" in Latin.
The Hubble Space Telescope captured images of Jupiter's three great moons -- Io, Callisto, and Europa -- passing by at once.
A massive galaxy cluster known as SDSS J1038 4849 looks like a smiley face in an image captured by the Hubble Telescope. The two glowing eyes are actually two distant galaxies. And what of the smile and the round face? That's a result of what astronomers call "strong gravitational lensing." That happens because the gravitational pull between the two galaxy clusters is so strong it distorts time and space around them.
Using powerful optics, astronomers have found a planet-like body, J1407b, with rings 200 times the size of Saturn's. This is an artist's depiction of the rings of planet J1407b, which are eclipsing a star.
A patch of stars appears to be missing in this image from the La Silla Observatory in Chile. But the stars are actually still there behind a cloud of gas and dust called Lynds Dark Nebula 483. The cloud is about 700 light years from Earth in the constellation Serpens (The Serpent).
This is the largest Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled. It's a portion of the galaxy next door, Andromeda (M31).
NASA has captured a stunning new image of the so-called "Pillars of Creation," one of the space agency's most iconic discoveries. The giant columns of cold gas, in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, were popularized by a similar image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space pieced together this picture that shows a small section of space in the southern-hemisphere constellation Fornax. Within this deep-space image are 10,000 galaxies, going back in time as far as a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.
Planetary nebula Abell 33 appears ring-like in this image, taken using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. The blue bubble was created when an aging star shed its outer layers and a star in the foreground happened to align with it to create a "diamond engagement ring" effect.
This long-exposure image from the Hubble Telescope is the deepest-ever picture taken of a cluster of galaxies. The cluster, called Abell 2744, contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago; the more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang.
This Hubble image looks a floating marble or a maybe a giant, disembodied eye. But it's actually a nebula with a giant star at its center. Scientists think the star used to be 20 times more massive than our sun, but it's dying and is destined to go supernova.