best-of-2012

18 Astounding Hubble Photos Released In 2012

The universe is beautiful and terrifying.

1.
Nasa / Reuters

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have photographed a festive-looking nearby planetary nebula called NGC 5189. The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined.

2.

This composite image of a portion of the Tarantula Nebula’s central cavity illustrates the profound effect new stars can have on their environment. The young stars are acting something like cosmic, decidedly non-eco-friendly light bulbs. Each star cranks out a dazzlingly high wattage in the form of optical and ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

3.

About 300 million light-years away, only four of these five galaxies are actually locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters. The odd man out is easy to spot, though. The interacting galaxies have an overall yellowish cast. But the predominantly bluish galaxy is closer, just 40 million light-years distant, and isn’t part of the interacting group.

4.

This galaxy is having a bad millennium. In fact, the past 100 million years haven’t been so good, and probably the next billion or so will be quite tumultuous. The upper left galaxy used to be a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, until the one toward its right, crashed into it.

5.

The unusual form seen here is the result of a cosmic collision with a smaller galaxy which plunged right through the heart of the larger and shot out the other side. As the smaller galaxy passed through the middle it set up gravitational ripples that disrupted the clouds of gas and triggered the formation of new stars whose radiation then lit up the remaining gas.

6.

Lying 45 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), this bright star-forming ring surrounds the heart of the barred spiral galaxy.

7.

Located just beyond the tip of the tail of the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan), this butterfly-shaped cloud of glowing gas and dust is the wreckage of a star similar to the Sun.

8.
Handout / Reuters

A photo of U Camelopardalis, or U Cam for short, a star nearing the end of its life located in the constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe), near the North Celestial Pole. As it begins to run low on fuel, it is becoming unstable. Every few thousand years, it coughs out a nearly spherical shell of gas as a layer of helium around its core begins to fuse.

9.
Handout / Reuters

The galaxy cluster PKS 0745-19 is shown in this NASA composite image containing X-rays from Chandra (purple) and optical date from the Hubble Telescope (yellow). The black hole at the center of this galaxy is part of a survey of 18 of the biggest known black holes in the universe.

10.
NASA / AP

In this image provided by NASA and taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows previously unseen early galaxies including the oldest one at 13.3 billion years old.

11.
ALMA / AP

Antennae Galaxies are a pair of distorted colliding spiral galaxies about 70 million light-years away, in the constellation of Corvus (The Crow).

12.
Handout / Reuters

Two very different galaxies are drifting through space together in this image. The peculiar galaxy pair is called Arp 116 which is composed of a giant elliptical galaxy known as Messier 60 or M60 © and a much smaller spiral galaxy, NGC 4647 (upper right).

13.

A new photo of Eta Carinae system’s largest star suffering a near-death experience before it goes supernova in the near future. The star is once more visible to the naked eye at night, although it’s nowhere near as bright as it was back in the 19th century.

14.

Astronomers have caught two clusters full of massive stars that may be in the early stages of merging. The clusters are 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy to our Milky Way.

15.

Two jets powered by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A

16.

Herbig-Haro 110 is a geyser of hot gas from a newborn star that splashes up against and ricochets off the dense core of a cloud of molecular hydrogen. Although the plumes of gas look like whiffs of smoke, they are actually billions of times less dense and several light-years across.

17.

Peering deep inside the hub of the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a large, rare population of hot, bright stars. Roughly 8,000 of them!

18.

Astronomers are watching a delayed broadcast of a spectacular outburst from the unstable, behemoth double-star system Eta Carinae, an event initially seen on Earth nearly 170 years ago. Dubbed the “Great Eruption,” the outburst first caught the attention of sky watchers in 1837 and was observed through 1858.

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