Awesome Astronomy: Top Ten All-time Favorite Astronomy Photos
- 'Pillars of Creation', Eagle Nebula: Also known as Messier 16, this diffuse emission nebula is about 7,000 light years away and over 5.5 million years old. It’s home to the “Pillars of Creation”, which are suspected to have been destroyed 6,000 years ago by a supernova. The light from the supernova still has 1,000 years to reach Earth. The two pillars within this nebula were star factories, with the top of the pillars being burned off over thousands of years as new stars formed within its depths.
- Cat's Eye Nebula: This planetary nebula is a large gaseous mystery with what scientists think is a binary star at its center. The concentric rings are suspected to be either thermal pulsations or rings of excited ions. This majestic nebula is thought to be around 1200 years old and contains some of the hottest gases in the universe. Another similar planetary nebula is “The Little Ghost” nebula.
- Sombrero Galaxy: This enormous galaxy is also known as Messier 104 and is estimated to be 28 million light years from Earth. The Sombrero Galaxy contains a supermassive black hole in its center. The bulge surrounded by spiraling arms and is contained within a massive dust ring.
- The Spiral Galaxy: The details of this galaxy are quite impressive. Over 78 million light years away, this spiraling mass gives birth to new stars on its edge called Cepheids. This galaxy type is the most common in the universe, and it is similar to Andromeda and the Pinwheel Galaxy.
- Hoag's Object: This galaxy is shaped in a very uncommon shape: a ring. This ring galaxy is located 600 million light years from Earth, and is filled with young blue stars. In the center of the ring is an older yellow nucleus. This fascinating galaxy remains a mystery to astronomers in how it formed. Another ring galaxy is AM 0644-741.
- Orion Nebula: This nebula is one of the most photographed features in the galaxy. It’s one of the closest star forming regions to Earth, being only 1400 light years away. The nebula contains tons of neutral clouds, ionized gas and reflection nebulae. The Orion Nebula contains the Trapezium, a set of four stars estimated to be around 1 million years old.
- Southern Pinwheel Galaxy: This large galaxy also called Messier 83 is located approximately 15 million light years from Earth and is very similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy. It hosts stars between 5-10 million years old and is smaller than the Milky Way. It’s known for its production of supernovae. Six have occurred in this galaxy in the past 100 years.
- Supernova 1006: This supernova is dubbed the “bubble” supernova. It’s in its early stages of post-supernova expansion. The gases spread rapidly throughout the surrounding universe, superheating matter and creating luminescent transmissions. SN1006 remnants have been captured from different vantages too.
- Egg Nebula: This newly discovered nebula is 3000 light years from Earth and is shrouded by a thick cloud of dust and gas. In the center of the nebula is a slowly dying sun-like star. The angular momentum of the internal disc of the nebula allows some light to escape to outer layers, which accounts for the colorful discs captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
- The Horsehead Nebula: The Horsehead Nebula is a dark nebula and is filled with cosmic dust. The nebula is channeled with a strong magnetic field and is approximately 1500 light years from Earth. This nebula is extremely cold and obscures visible light, blacking out background stars.
If you are interested in more astrophotography, there are quite a few resources available. First and foremost is the European Southern Observatory Image Gallery. This gallery provides thousands of photos taken from Hubble and the Speicher telescopes. The Hubble Heritage Gallery provides a monthly astronomy photo and can be used as a category search. Finally the HubbleSite gallery provides a category library of Hubble Telescope images.