Give your valentine one of the biggest roses in the Universe

When it comes to Valentine's day, flowers are kind of boring. Do they smell nice? Yes. But they also reek of unoriginality. Face it, people, the bouquet of roses has been done.

But if you still feel like you absolutely have to incorporate flowers into your V-day repertoire, there are options other than FTD at your disposal. This year, back away from the blossoms and treat somebody to the Rosette Nebula, instead.

It's colossal (about 130 light years in diameter), it's crimson (when imaged with red-sensitive photographic plates), and it's one of the most famous clouds of cosmic dust to ever resemble a flower (at least among astronomers). [Click here for the hi-res version]

Known formally as NGC 2237, the petals of the Rosette Nebula are actually what astronomers refer to as a "stellar nursery," a massive, energy-rich molecular cloud brimming with nascent celestial bodies. The nebula owes its symmetric shape to the winds and radiation that emanate from its central cluster of young stars — many of which are only a few million years old.

And best of all, under the right conditions you can actually spy this nebula with little more than a small telescope, or even a pair of binoculars. According to NASA, you can spot the nebula by directing your gaze twoard the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros), though you'll want to do it on a very, very dark winter night — Monoceros is also one of the faintest constellations in the sky.

[Via NASA]
Photo by Brian Davis via NASA