Mesmerizing galaxies, solar storms, and stars a million lifetimes away

June 18, 2017 4:01 pm Last Updated: June 18, 2017 4:01 pm

As Douglas Adams wrote in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” “Space is big. Really big.”

There’s nothing like a good selection of space images to remind us we’re just a speck of dust in the vast, brilliant universe.

Pinwheel Galaxy. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; IR & UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI)

“The Pinwheel Galaxy is in the constellation of Ursa Major (also known as the Big Dipper). It is about 70 percent larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy, with a diameter of about 170,000 light years, and sits at a distance of 21 million light years from Earth. This means that the light we’re seeing in this image left the Pinwheel Galaxy about 21 million years ago – many millions of years before humans ever walked the Earth.”

Jupiter’s “String of Pearls”, the white, oval-shaped storm spots, are clearly visible here. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt /Seán Doran)

“Juno is providing spectacular results, and we are rewriting our ideas of how giant planets work,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.  “The science will be just as spectacular as with our original plan.”

This composite image of the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant. (Credits: NASA, ESA, NRAO/AUI/NSF and G. Dubner (University of Buenos Aires))

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another.”

— Plato

M51 is a spiral galaxy, about 30 million light years away, that is in the process of merging with a smaller galaxy seen to its upper left. (NASA)
A galaxy about 23 million light years away is the site of impressive, ongoing fireworks. Rather than paper, powder and fire, this galactic light show involves a giant black hole, shock waves and vast reservoirs of gas. (NASA)
Light and Shadow in the Carina Nebula
The destructive results of a powerful supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate tapestry of X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as Viewed by Voyager 1: At about 89,000 miles in diameter, Jupiter could swallow 1,000 Earths.
A section of NGC 1448, a spiral galaxy located about 50 million light-years from Earth in the little-known constellation of Horologium (The Pendulum Clock).
Hubble composite of the Orion Nebula. Click here for a billion-pixel version.
A dead star’s ghostly glow.

“Astronomers discovered a real “tell-tale heart” in space, 6,500 light-years from Earth. The “heart” is the crushed core of a long-dead star, called a neutron star, which exploded as a supernova and is now still beating with rhythmic precision. Evidence of its heartbeat are rapid-fire, lighthouse-like pulses of energy from the fast-spinning neutron star. The stellar relic is embedded in the center of the Crab Nebula, the expanding, tattered remains of the doomed star.”

Hubble Sees a Star ‘Inflating’ a Giant Bubble.

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”

— Edwin Hubble, Astronomer

“Solar System Family Portrait” (NASA)

“These six narrow-angle color images were made from the first ever “portrait” of the solar system taken by Voyager 1, which was more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic.”

“There is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”
—Carl Sagan in Time magazine, 9 January 1995, describing the “Pale Blue Dot” image of Earth (above), taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft 6 billion kilometres away in 1990.

The unique galaxy pair called NGC 3314.
“This is how the Earth looked as photographed from a point near the Moon by the Apollo 8 astronauts. The Earth fills less than one percent of the frame exposed through 80mm lens. North is approximately vertical. Kinda lonely, isn’t it?”
“the supernova remnant SNR 0509-68.7, also known as N103B. It is located 160,000 light-years from Earth in a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. “
Ultraviolet light from the dying star makes the material glow. The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, is the white dot in the center.

“This image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the colorful “last hurrah” of a star like our sun.”

Sparkling at the center of this beautiful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a Wolf–Rayet star known as WR 31a, located about 30,000 light-years away in the constellation of Carina (The Keel).

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

—Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Series

This digital-image mosaic of Mars’ Tharsis plateau shows the extinct volcano Arsia Mons. It was assembled from images that the Viking 1 Orbiter took during its 1976-1980 working life at Mars.

“Mars has been flown by, orbited, smacked into, radar examined, and rocketed onto, as well as bounced upon, rolled over, shoveled, drilled into, baked and even blasted. Still to come: Mars being stepped on.”
—Buzz Aldrin, in his book Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration (2013).

Colorful Equatorial Gullies in Krupac Crater on Mars. (NASA)
The Hills are Colorful in Juventae Chasma: There are many hills about 1 kilometer high in Juventae Chasma, which is located north of the main Valles Marineris canyon system.
Anchored to a Canadarm2 mobile foot restraint, astronaut Rick Linnehan, STS-123 mission specialist, participates in the mission’s first scheduled session of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station.


“It is beautiful! And so full of life.” — “Gravity” screenplay by Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron, and Rodrigo Garcia (NASA)