This image by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a dramatic view of the spiral galaxy M51, dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy. Seen in near-infrared light, most of the starlight has been removed, revealing the Whirlpool's skeletal dust structure. This new image is the sharpest view of the dense dust in M51. The narrow lanes of dust revealed by Hubble reflect the galaxy's moniker, the Whirlpool Galaxy, as if they were swirling toward the galaxy's core.
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has captured a glowing stellar nursery within a dark globule that is opaque at visible light. These new images pierce through the obscuration to reveal the birth of new protostars and young stars never before seen. The newborn stars form in the dense gas because of compression by the wind and radiation from a nearby massive star. The winds from this unseen star are also responsible for producing the spectacular filamentary appearance of the globule itself, which resembles that of a flying dragon.
This image provided by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Thursday May 4, 2006 shows a second red spot (lower l.) emerging on Jupiter. For the first time in history, astronomers have witnessed the birth of a new red spot on the giant planet, which is located half a billion miles away. The storm is roughly one-half the diameter of its bigger and legendary cousin, the Great Red Spot. Researchers suggest that the new spot may be related to a possible major climate change in Jupiter's atmosphere.
This image of Vesta released by NASA was captured by the Dawn spacecraft on July 9, 2011, and was taken from a distance of about 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) away from the protoplanet. Each pixel in the image corresponds to roughly 5.8 miles.
In this Nov. 2009 photo, the Milky Way spreads across the night sky over Mormon Row, an historic settlement, in Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyo. The light in the distance is the city of Driggs, Idaho, on the west side of the Teton Mountain Range.
This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the broken Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachm ann 3 skimming along a trail of debris left during its multiple trips around the sun. The flame-like objects are the comet's fragments and their tails, while the dusty comet trail is the line bridging the fragments.
This false-color image shows the incredible, complex beauty of Saturn's rings. The massive ring system is over 150,000 miles in diameter.
The Crab Nebula, filled with mysterious filaments, is the result of a star that was seen to explode in 1054 AD. This spectacular supernova explosion was recorded by Chinese and (quite probably) Anasazi Indian astronomers. The filaments are mysterious because they appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and higher speed than expected from a free explosion. In the above picture taken recently from a Very Large Telescope, the color indicates what is happening to the electrons in different parts of the Crab Nebula.
By the end of this month, astronomers expect to have found 500 planets beyond our solar system. The current count is 494, including one that may be inhabitable by humans.
Fire acts differently in space than on Earth. Sandra Olson, an aerospace engineer at NASA's Glenn Research Center, demonstrates just how differently in her art. This artwork is comprised of multiple overlays of three separate microgravity flame images. Each image is of flame spread over cellulose paper in a spacecraft ventilation flow in microgravity. The different colors represent different chemical reactions within the flame.