Astronomers Release Gorgeous Image of a “Celestial Diamond Ring”

The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile has captured this stunning image of planetary nebula that, by chance, is aligned with a foreground star, and thus bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetrical, appearing to be almost perfectly circular. » 4/09/14 2:40pm 4/09/14 2:40pm

This cosmic dust is basically a gargantuan, radiation-spewing fairy

That's how the good people at NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day describe this dust pillar, at any rate, and I know better than to argue with a bunch of astronomers armed with a flair for figurative language. And this gorgeous gas is just one small part of the generally just ridiculously impressive Eagle Nebula. » 9/29/13 5:00pm 9/29/13 5:00pm

This dazzlingly bright star is a cosmic lighthouse

This star is RS Puppis, and it isn't just the stellar equivalent of a pretty face; it's absolutely crucial to our understanding of the universe. This is a Cepheid variable star, which in part means its brightness increases and decreases on an exact, predictable schedule. And because it's surrounded by a giant nebula… » 9/15/13 2:00pm 9/15/13 2:00pm

What the heck is this strange red rectangle doing in our galaxy?

It's not often that a nebula looks quite so much like a cheesy special effect from some forgotten '70s sci-fi movie, but the Red Rectangle Nebula qualifies. After all, this seems to betray a total misunderstanding of basic science, because aren't nebulae meant to be, well, round? And is any nebula that blood-red? » 5/26/13 1:00pm 5/26/13 1:00pm

A star steals its partner's spotlight in the Southern Ring Nebula

Also known as the Eight-Burst Nebula — or, if we want to be all boring and technical, NGC 3132 — this cosmic beauty is located some 2,000 light-years from Earth. It's not actually a regular nebula at all, but instead it's what's known as a planetary nebula, the result of a star dying and venting its remaining gas into… » 4/14/13 4:15pm 4/14/13 4:15pm

A star is taking down the Carina Nebula from the inside

This image from the Hubble Telescope shows part of the Carina Nebula, located roughly 7,500 light-years from Earth. This massive cosmic cloud is a stellar incubator, but the newborn star found inside has to fight its way out by firing off powerful, super-fast jets. These energetic, narrowly focused jets are known as… » 3/24/13 2:00pm 3/24/13 2:00pm

The War and Peace Nebula explodes with violent star creation

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has released a gorgeous new picture of the War and Peace Nebula, or what the cool kids call NGC 6357. It's located 8,000 lightyears away in the constellation of Scorpius. By using the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have been able to look at the detail of the… » 6/20/12 2:40pm 6/20/12 2:40pm