Today in pretty space pics: the constellation Monoceros, also known as the unicorn. A solid 2,700 light-years from Earth, this cluster of gas and dust is more formally cataloged as NGC 2264, a star-forming region that shines with both emission nebulae excited by the high energy given off by newborn stars (red) and reflection nebulae, which is light simply bouncing off interstellar dust near young, hot stars (blue).
Today in pretty space pics: The Helix Nebula, captured in infrared light by the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope at Chile’s Paranal Observatory. How this nearby space fixture escaped being named the Eye of Sauron, we have no idea.
Combing through the night sky and looking for possible planetary nebulae is tough, tedious work. NASA actually works with several amateur astronomy groups to examine the findings from its Kepler space observatory, so sometimes, the big discoveries are made by amateurs--including this one, the newest known planetary nebula, named Kronberger 61.
This spooky image of a tiny nebula known as IRAS 05437+2502 was recently released by the Hubble Space Telescope, but perhaps even more eerie than the wispy, ghost-like appearance of the little-studied star forming region is the boomerang-like light crowning the nebula. Though the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) first discovered the nebula in 1983, astronomers have no clue what is lighting up this glowing object.