25 Remarkably Stunning NASA Photos

We live on a gorgeous planet, but the beauty of our surroundings doesn’t stop there. When we look up to the cosmos, we are wowed and amazed by the thousands of specs of light beaming down to us, twinkling away in their corners of the sky. But that’s only the beginning.

When we turn our powerful telescopes to the sky – and especially when we snap images across visible light, ultraviolet light, and infrared light ranges – our universe lights up like a million rainbows streaking in the dark. The complex interactions of dust and gases throughout the cosmos create natural artwork in the sky that turn any spot we point a telescope towards into a fine art museum.

While most of us have seen stunning snapshots of craters on the Moon, ancient lake beds on Mars, and close-ups of solar flares from our closest star, we guarantee you’ve never seen the universe like this. From a picture of Jupiter which makes it come alive with color to a dense mountain of gas and dust swirling away in the sky to a nebula which looks like a bright, burning phoenix, here are 25 Remarkably Stunning NASA Photos.

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25

The Sunflower Galaxy is one of the most beautiful cosmic structures in the universe. Its expansive, winding arms are made up of new blue-white giant stars.

Messier 63Source & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
24

Though you might not believe it, this image from within the Carina Nebula is as real as can be. The mountain of gas and dust streaming three light-years high into space is a hotbed of activity, dwindling away as stars coalesce within it due to the compression of nearby stars.

carina-nebula-mountain-of-gas-and-dustSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
23

Isn't near-infrared light amazing? This near-infrared image of Jupiter shows the different clouds in its atmosphere, colored differently based on their altitude. Since methane gas limits the penetration of sunlight, yellow areas are high clouds; red, middle-level clouds; and blue, low clouds. What is really amazing, though, are Jupiter's three largest moons - Io, Ganymede, and Callisto - all eclipsing the planet at the same time, an event that happens only about once a decade.

jupiter in infraredSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
22

The galaxy I Zwicky 18 looks more a scene from the opening sequence of Doctor Who than it does a real cosmic beauty. The dwarf irregular galaxy baffles scientists because some of its star development is typical of galaxy formation in the earliest days of the universe; this is despite the galaxy being relatively young at around a billion years old.

I-Zwicky_18aSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
21

The dimmest planet we can see from Earth with the naked eye, Saturn is routinely ranked as a 10-year-old's favorite planet. Its iconic ring structure is the best known in our universe, shown here in infrared radiation to bring out the delicate hues of Saturn's gaseous atmosphere.

Hubble_infrared_of_SaturnSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
20

Over 200 immensely hot stars make up nebula NGC 604. The Hubble Space Telescope captured the brilliant fluorescence of the nebula, caused by ionized hydrogen gas.

NGC 604 in M 33 galaxySource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
19

Assembled from 24 separate images, this photo of the Crab Nebula shows the supernova remnant in the Taurus constellation.

crab-nebulaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
18

The red orb at the center of this image, the star V838 Mon, is surrounded by a host of dusty clouds. This incredible photo was taken after the brightened star caused a light echo, pushing the dust out into the universe like a big sneeze.

V838-MonSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
17

One of the most breathtaking images of the cosmos is from the Carina Nebula. An interstellar cloud filled with dust and ionized gases, the Carina Nebula is one of the largest nebula in our sky, and one of the most fascinating, hosting countless star clusters and even the brightest star in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Carina_NebulaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
16

One of the creepiest images (actually the only one) on our list of remarkably stunning NASA photos is the Engraved Hourglass Nebula, named because of the notches in its gas cloud, propelled by an internal stellar wind. Regardless of what astronomers say, it looks more like a creepy eye to us.

The Hourglass NebulaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
15

Using nearly every color in the rainbow, this section of the Veil Nebula was captured from 2,100 light years away. Due to its elongated and wispy shape, it's often called the Witch's Broom Nebula.

Veil NebulaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
14

The force is strong in the constellation of Orion. Though the lightsaber down the middle didn't inspire George Lucas, it is a powerful force to be reckoned with. A jet of energized gas, if the lightsaber touches surrounding dust, it will shove them away and create the shock wave pockets easily seen here.

A cosmic lightsabreSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
13

This image of a supermassive star's explosion looks more like a birthday cake than a supernova. Two loops of stellar remnants irregularly extend out, while a ring of what looks like candles encircles the dying star at the center. Scientists are still searching for a neutron star or black hole at the formerly-massive star's center.

birthday-cake-supernovaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
12

Though the Whirlpool Galaxy looks gorgeous, it hides a dark secret (literally) - it's full of ravenous black holes. This image could have come right out of a sci-fi novel but is just the galaxy in both visual light on the left (its stars) and infrared light on the right (its dust structure).

the_Two-faced_Whirlpool_GalaxySource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
11

Looking like an open-mouthed phoenix, this Orion Nebula snapshot combines infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light to create an incredibly colorful and detailed image. The bright spot in place of the bird's heart is four massive stars about 100,000 times brighter than the Sun.

orion nebulaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
10

Resulting from the explosion of a star similar to our Sun, the Ring Nebula is beautifully glowing layers of gas and discarded material which were cast off in the explosion. What remains of the star is the small white dot at the picture's center.

ring nebulaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
9

If someone had to describe what hell looks like, they might use this infrared image from the core of our Milky Way Galaxy. Hot, ionized gas swirls around as massive stars come into existence in violent births.

color mosaic of milky way centerSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
8

The dramatic Cat's Eye Nebula is made up of eleven rings of gas which were ejected before the nebula formed. The irregular internal structure is thought to result from rapid-moving stellar wind which broke the bubble at either end.

cat's eye nebulaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
7

Over 100,000 stars are crowded into this image from inside the Omega Centauri cluster. The yellow dots are middle-aged stars, like our Sun. The orange dots are later-life stars, and the large red dots are stars in their red giant phases. Once they cast off their outer hydrogen gas, the stars turn a bright blue.

omega centauri starsSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
6

One of the most popular NASA photos ever taken, the Eagle Nebula's Pillars of Creation are massive strands of gas and dust captured in visible light. The pillars change over time as they are eroded by stellar winds from nearby stars.

New view of the Pillars of Creation — visibleSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
5

The five galaxies in Stephen's Quintet are under quite a bit of strain. Though the bluer, upper-left galaxy is much closer to Earth than the rest, the background galaxies are pulling each other apart, distorting their shapes and ripping apart their arms.

stephan's quintetSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
4

Known informally as the Butterfly Nebula, NGC 6302 is the remnants of a dying star. Its ultraviolet radiation causes gases it previously expelled to glow in brilliant colors. The wings of the butterfly extend for over two light-years, half the distance from the Sun to its nearest star.

Butterfly nebulaSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
3

Quasars are the result of supermassive black holes at galactic centers. This quasar, SDSS J1106, is the most energetic ever found, shooting matter around 1,000 light years into the surrounding space.

Artist’s_impression_of_the_huge_outflow_ejected_from_the_quasar_SDSS_J1106+1939Source & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
2

The nebula NGC 6357 is one of the most dramatic artworks in the sky. Its dense network of gas forms a bubble around the bright star cluster Pismis 24 which uses its ultraviolet radiation to heat the gas and push it outward. Before the stars were discovered to be a binary system, scientists thought Pismis 24 was the most massive star in the galaxy.

Pismis 24 and NGC 6357Source & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble
1

This image of cluster Westerlund 2 was shot in near-infrared and visible light and released for the Hubble Space Telescope's 25th year orbiting the Earth. Do you have a favorite image taken by NASA? Let us know!

Westerlund 2 — Hubble’s 25th anniversary imageSource & Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble


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