NASA/ESA Hubble The faint body of a spider hides in a web of dark dust in this image of the Tarantula Nebula from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Explore the outskirts of this massive nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. What stories or images do you see? Leave a note in the comments below. Located about 170,000 light-years from Earth, the Tarantula Nebula is the largest and brightest known nebula in the Local Group of galaxies; a group of nearby galaxies that includes the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds and the Andromeda Galaxy. The nebula is a vast star-making factory. It takes light more than 650 years to cross this nebula. The wispy structures in this nebula glow in this image because new stars give off strong ultraviolet radiation which causes the atoms in the cloud to become excited and glow. Hydrogen gas usually glows red but scientists tweak the filters used on the Hubble telescope to bring out different details in different colors of light. In this image, hydrogen glows green. Eventually, as the gas is blown away from the new stars, clusters of stars, like the Pleiades, will be revealed. Send as an ECard
Credit: NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI). A cloud of gas and dust resembles the head of a bird diving down or a comet in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Explore the fan-shaped nebula. Tell us in the comments below what shapes or stories you see. Hubble's Variable Nebula, or NGC 2261, is illuminated by R Monocerotis, hidden in the bright area of dust at the tip of the bird's nose. American astronomer Edwin P Hubble, whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named after, studied and noted that nebula became brighter and dimmer over time. This light variations within the nebula was thought to be caused by the star itself. Later astronomers found that shadows cast by dense clusters of dust near the star itself give rise to intricate patterns of lightness and darkness we see in the cloud. R Monocerotis is a heavy star about 10 times more massive than our Sun. The star is also just emerging from its cocoon of gas and dust. Astronomers estimate that it was born only about 300,000 years ago. Like many other new stars, scientist think that there is another, twin wing of gas and dust hidden behind this one. NGC 2261 is found about 2,500 light-years from Earth toward the dim constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. Star cartographer Jakob Bartsch first added the constellation to his star maps in 1624. Send as an ECard
Credit: ESA and NASA A frosty halo surrounds a burned-out star in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Explore the Frosty Leo Nebula, also known as IRAS 09371+1212. Does it look like bird? Or a butterfly or an angel perhaps? Tell us your story. Leave a note below. The Frosty Leo Nebula is a protoplanetary nebula. When a star like our Sun enters the final stages of life, it puffs off its outer layers. Halos, loops and lobes of material fly out from the star. Eventually, radiation from the white-hot but dead central star will cause the nebula to glow. This nebula is just beginning to form with the nebula reflecting light from the central star. These types of nebula are rare and last only a few thousand years before transforming into a glowing planetary nebula. Astronomers study protoplanetary nebulae to seek a better understanding of how stars evolve. This nebula got its name because it is rich in ice grains and it lies withing the constellation of Leo the Lion. It lies about 3,000 light-years from Earth.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA A sun in the constellation of Orion shines across the reflection nebula in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Explore the billowing waves of dust and soft shades of color in this image. What stories or patterns does your imagination see? Leave a note below. NGC 2023 is a vast nebula near the more well-known Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula. The nebula reflects the bright starlight from a massive hot, blue star. We see its bright light in the upper left part of the image shining across Hubble's optics. To the right side of the image, zoom into the greenish clump of gas and dust. Astronomers think this is the signature of a new star being formed. They call these unusual regions Herbig-Haro objects. Gas is shot out at high-speed from newly formed stars. When the gas slams into the colder nebula surrounding the stars, it heats up and glows. It would take nearly four years to cross NGC 2023 in a spaceship zipping along at six trillion miles per year or the speed of light. If we flew off toward the constellation of Orion, the Hunter, in our lightspeed traveling ship, we would reach the nebula in about 1,500 years.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. MaÃz ApellÃ¡niz (Instituto de AstrofÃsica de AndalucÃa, Spain) Starting out our starry alphabet is the nebula near Pismis 24. Harsh winds from hot, new stars have hollowed out an "A" in this image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The stars of Pismis 24 are massive; some more than 100 times heavier than our Sun. The new stars also unleash a powerful stellar wind that shapes the nebula below. Explore the image and wander from the stars down to the nebula. You'll encounter tall pillars of dense dust and wispy tendrils of gas. My favorite shape in this cloud is the hand and finger pointing up at Pismis 24. Can you find it? All pillars, or elephant trunks, point back toward the flow of the stellar wind. You can also find a new star near the bottom of the image hollowing out a bubble in the nebula. Can you find other shapes in the nebula, such as tadpoles and worms? These denser pockets of gas may shrink down and ignite on their own as stars. NGC 6357 glows because of the light of the newly formed stars. Intense ultraviolet radiation coming from the star cluster, excites the gas molecules in the nebula and causes them to glow. Astronomers call this kind of nebula and emission nebula. NGC 6357 and Pismis 24 are found in the constellation Scorpius, the scorpion, about 8,000 light-years from Earth. In our starship, traveling at the speed of light, ten years would pass while moving from the star at the bottom of the nebula to the star cluster at the top.