This close-up view made in visible light by the very large Kueyen telescope shows the intricate detail in the head of the Horsehead Nebula. The nebula is a vast cloud of dark dust, silhouetted against the glowing reddish hydrogen gas behind it. Despite sitting in a region often studied by astronomers, the nebula was first noticed by Williamina Fleming on a photographic plate in 1888.
Normally a mix of brown and red hues, this image of Jupiter made in near-infrared light has been color-coded to show cloud height, from high altitude (white) through mid-range (blue) to low altitude (red). The so-called Great Red Spot and its neighbor Red Spot Junior top out at the highest altitudes, therefore appearing mainly as white in this image. Observers used the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii to capture this view.
The Seven Sisters, also known as the Pleiades star cluster, seem to float on a bed of feathers in this infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Clouds of dust sweep around the stars, wrapping them in a cushiony veil. The Pleiades, located in the Taurus constellation (the bull), are the subject of legends around the world.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. During such an event only the red part of sunlight — bent by the Earth's atmosphere — reaches the Moon, and so it appears a vivid copper color. This multiple-exposure image was taken during the eclipse of July 16, 2000.
A close-up, ultraviolet view of the Sun's corona shows vast looping structures made of blisteringly hot, electrically charged gas (plasma). Here the plasma is caught falling back to the Sun after an explosive solar flare, known as coronal rain.
Andromeda is a spiral galaxy close to our Milky Way, and it is the largest galaxy visible to the unaided eye. By using ultraviolet light, astronomers can highlight different structures: blue colors represent light given off by brilliant young stars in the spiral arms, while orange tones are from the older, cooler stars in the galaxy's core. Billions of years from now, the Milky Way and Andromeda will merge.
The large constellation of Scorpius incorporates many dazzling stars including Antares, one of the brightest in our galaxy. Across the left of the image is part of the Milky Way's plane, where vast clouds of bright stars and long filaments of dark dust can be seen. Scorpius appears prominently in the southern sky after sunset during the middle of the year.
Thor's Helmet is a rare example of a Wolf-Rayet star. Around 40 times the mass of our Sun, this type of star is young and extremely bright. It generates a wind that blasts outwards from the star at millions of miles per hour. Because Wolf-Rayet stars burn so brightly and shed so much material, scientists think they represent a brief stage before the star explodes as a supernova.
The Carina Nebula is an immense landscape of dark dust columns silhouetted against glowing gas clouds. The nebula, almost 500 trillion kilometers wide, is both lit and sculpted by the intense radiation of its brilliant young stars.
The unusual shape of the Cartwheel Galaxy results from one of the smaller galaxies to the left passing through it about 100 million years ago. This created a huge compression wave, like a ripple in a pond, and this wave triggers intense bouts of star formation. Four of NASA's orbiting observatories collaborated to make this image: the Chandra X-ray Observatory (purple), GALEX in ultraviolet (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (green), and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope (red).
The stellar cluster referred to as NGC 2467 is located in the southern constellation of Puppis. With an age of a few million years, it is a very active stellar nursery where new stars are continuously born from large clouds of dust and gas. The bright star in the center of the region is a massive young star that is helping shape the structure of the whole region.
Located in the constellation of Orion, the Horsehead is part of a dense cloud of gas in front of an active star-forming nebula. The Horsehead is illuminated by the bright star Sigma Orionis. This image was taken using the National Science Foundation's 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona.