When the NASA Hubble Space Telescope or any of the other fancy equipment up in space take a picture of far off places in our universe, they don’t come back looking all that pretty. In order to make these images presentable to the public, and more as how they would be seen with the naked eye, NASA takes a few liberties and hits them with the Photoshop stick.
Images which only show certain wavelengths of light are now suddenly full of color. Or multiple images are combined to make one beautiful composite image. You shouldn’t feel duped by NASA doing a little photoshop work on these images, because these are as close to how we would see them as they can figure.
Click ‘Start Slideshow’ and take a look for yourself and some of these incredible photos to come out of the space organization.
Diamonds in the Sky
It’s going to be difficult to write this without using the words “amazing,” “awesome,” “incredible” and “fantastic” about a million times. This first image alone is all of those combined. This image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a star cluster called Trumpler 14. Some of the brightest stars in the Milky Way are located here.
The Red Ribbon
Shooting across space was a ribbon of gas, standing out dramatically against the stars behind it. This band, captured by the Hubble, is actually part of a supernova. The star which went supernova likely exploded more than 1,000 before this picture was taken. Space is awesome.
Riders On the Storm
The shapes which exist amongst the clouds of the Horsehead Nebula are remarkable. This image is of the upper ridge of the nebula. The clouds are lit by the Sigma Orionis, which is a five-star system, as opposed to our single-star system. There is little doubt this picture received some work. The stars are brighter and the detail is crisper than most Hubble images.
Blasts of Color
Hubble once captured what could be mistaken as fireworks in a galaxy not so far, far away. The galaxy, named Kiso 5639, isn’t all that far from us and it has some unique qualities. It’s sort of flat and long, something which is seen more often in galaxies which are farther away from ours, and thus much older. Because of the angle at which it is tilted, Kiso 5639 appears to be rocketing across the sky.
This amorphous shape reminds me of the ghosts often shown on grainy security cam footage. It floats in space, watching, haunting its galaxy. You look hard enough, it’s almost like a head, the thicker parts at the top and right like hair with a face in the more shallow part in the middle. In truth, this is some of what’s left after a star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.
Hubble keeps rolling out the hits with this striking image of two galaxies merging. This is a picture of AM 0500-620. In the foreground, you can see a spiral galaxy, seen almost completely head on with arms full of stars spreading out. Behind it, the glowing blob of a galaxy sort of hangs out, waiting for the collision to occur.
Over in NGC 1569, a dwarf galaxy, there’s a whole lot going on. Stars are constantly being born here, releasing giant clouds of gas and dust into space, staying as bubbles within the galaxy. The colors are dramatic, and the stars shine so brightly from within. It’s pretty wild to think these explosions are more powerful than hundreds of thousands of nuclear bombs.
Leave Your Hat On
Hubble also grabbed an excellent image of the Messier 104 galaxy, the Sombrero galaxy. This thing is 28 million light years away from us and is pretty massive at 50,000 light years across. Size-wise, it’s about as big as 800 billion of our suns. Specifically, this photo is an example of how NASA uses multiple images to create a single one. An image from the Hubble was merged with one from an infrared telescope to get the details right.
Galaxies beware! The Pac-Man Galaxy is on its way to eat you all! No, as much as I would love it to be, this isn’t the Pac-Man Galaxy. It’s actually called Arp 148 and has earned the nickname the Mayall object. It hangs out in the constellation Ursa Major, of which the Big Dipper is part. That’s 500 million light years away. While it may not be Pac-Man, that galaxy is definitely taking over the other.
Thanks to the nearby smaller galaxy, NGC 6872 has a shape which is peculiar among others. It’s arms seem to spread out farther, trailing away as a weakening hurricane might. Perhaps it’s an issue of gravity, or maybe that smaller galaxy just steals away a little of NGC 6872’s mojo as it swings by, but the shape is very cool, and Hubble captured it well.
The Staff of Power
As a giant fan of the high fantasy genre, I can’t help but think of a wizard’s staff when I see this image. It’s as though Merlin has taken to the stars, staff in hand, to help King Arthur in some other dimension. In truth, this is actually what happens when a star is born. As the initial explosion happens, jets shoot out from opposite sides, expelling all manner of stuff into the vastness of space.
The First View
This image, taken sometime in 2000 or 2001, marked the first time this sort of celestial event was seen, though it had been predicted previously by computers. As the central star dies, material from within is shot out at about a million miles per hour. As it moves, it interacts with other material around it, causing it to move away and ignite. It is in this way a nebula is formed.
Say hello to Mystic Mountain. Is it just me, or does this photo look like three people attacking somebody else? I’m seeing a guy on the right about to swing a hammer, another on the left who was just punched and is falling backward, somebody coming in from above with a giant sickle or something, and yet another person in the middle, trying to fend them all off.
Head On Collision
Space is a pretty chaotic place. If you think about how absolutely massive it is, you might think otherwise, but it’s awfully busy out there. When looking at this image of AM 1316-241, you can see yet another merging of galaxies, the spiral galaxy out front seemingly drifting into the elliptical galaxy behind. Is this a natural movement through space, or has something drawn them together?
Like Oil on Water
The patterns made by a nebula near NGC 2074 are breathtaking. The colors remind me of the patterns sometimes seen on roads after a rain, reflecting the colors of the spectrum. This is only a small part of the nebula, which may have been formed by a star which went supernova somewhere in the vicinity. These are the sorts of images you can’t get in raw images from space.
The galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 looks as though it has a face, grinning at Hubble from afar. “I see you,” the stars seem to say. If you look closely, you can see that each of those lights isn’t a star, it’s a galaxy. Spirals and ellipticals abound, each containing their own stars and, very likely, planets. Is there life out there?
Here’s an interesting phenomena. In this photo taken by Hubble of the Orion nebula, you can see the space dust and gases being actively affected by the star in the center of the image. As the star moves through the dust, it creates a bow shock, its energies cutting through as a boat cuts through the waves of the ocean.
Though not merging, these two galaxies do have some connection. The massive NGC 5754 is visible face on, floating in space near NGC 5752, a much smaller galaxy. All around, more galaxies can be seen. Do they envy the relationship these two have? Do they even have a relationship, or is it all in NGC 5752? Find out next week on NGC 5754’s Creek.
Don’t Be So Crabby
The Crab Nebula is something unique. It is intricate, featuring small lines radiating to some sort of central core. In many ways it resembles a nervous system. Synapse-like tendrils extend to the center, seemingly merging, exhibiting numerous colors. Could this be some sort of extraterrestrial life force?
Age is Just a Number
Did you know you can tell the age of a galaxy simply by looking at its colors? According to NASA, this is done in a similar fashion to how counting rings can determine the age of a tree. Check out the color variations in this picture of NGC 3310. Each dot is a cluster of stars, and the blue ones are the oldest, the color made by their energy fading. In the center, new stars are born.
This image is something of an example of what Hubble really sees. Sort of, anyway. This image is actually created using three different images, one from Spitzer, another from Hubble and yet another from Chandra. Each of the space observatories contributed a different wavelength to this image, providing the various colors seen here in the M82 galaxy.
On a backdrop of bright stars being newly born float dark clouds, much like stormclouds floating through a brightly lit evening sky. They herald periods of thunder and rain, impending chaos from which shelter will be needed. In space, however, dark clouds like this don’t mean a storm is brewing. Not that we know of, anyway.
A Better View
The name may be a tongue twister, but NGC 6050/IC 1179 Arp 272 is very special to see. Most galaxies we have seen collide seem to do so from different angles, but here we see these two galaxies in the Hercules Galaxy Cluster almost completely face forward. They are merging, possibly forming a single massive galaxy, or maybe even breaking apart. Space is wild.
A Big Bang
This explosion of a massive star is what NASA calls Eta Carinae twins. Eta Carinae is a star which was viewed extensively in the 17th century. Specifically, something happened with the star to make it, between March 11 and March 14, 1843, the second-brightest star in the sky. It has varied over the years, becoming impossible to see to the naked eye and again becoming quite bright.
Calm After the Storm
Take a look at NGC 520. Some 300 million years ago, two galaxies began to crash into each other. Once they worked out their issues, this is what was left behind. It doesn’t seem to have much of a shape, being just a dark streak painted across a sea of white, but it is somehow peaceful. One has to imagine what it may look like in another 300 million years.
The End of Everything
The Omega Nebula is beautiful. It appears as clouds moving to cover bright colors across the sky, or waves crashing upon the shore. In truth, these are all gases made brighter by the radiation from stars within and around the nebula. The colors are from the different materials, sulfur is colored red, hydrogen is green and oxygen is blue.
The Ant Nebula is an interesting example of what happens when a star dies. NASA hopes they can use this image from Hubble to glean a bit of information and get an idea of what could happen when our sun dies and expels its materials into the void. As seen here, the star in the center is doing just that, creating a massive display of destruction and beauty.
Two more galaxies move through the universe in close proximity. NGC 6621/2 VV 247, Arp 81 is the name of this celestial object composed of the two galaxies. According to NASA, this image was taken by Hubble some 100 million years after they got as close as they ever had. Seeing into space has always been so interesting to me because you are literally viewing the past. For all we know, these things don’t even exist anymore.
It’s Full of Stars
How can anyone look at this image and still think there is any possible chance our planet is the only place in the universe which holds life? These are all stars, white dwarf stars newly born and heading out of the center of a star cluster to do their own thing. Once you realize this is only a single cluster of stars, and that the universe contains millions of said clusters, you get just a small glimpse of how giant our universe truly is.