Mixtures of interstellar dust clouds, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases, nebulae were originally used to describe extended astronomical regions and objects including galaxies beyond the Milky Way, until Edwin Hubble’s discovery of galaxies.
Today, thanks to high-performance telescopes like Hubble, Spitzer or WISE we can see the most spectacular nebula images, like those that we’ve included in this nebulae gallery.
Approximately 4,500-5,000 light-years away, in our Milky Way galaxy, the flower-shaped Rosette nebula (NGC 2237) is a huge star-forming could of dust and gas within the constellation of the Unicorn.<
1,500 light-years away, within the Orion constellation, baby stars are creating the beautiful chaos in this image in a cosmic dust cloud called the Orion nebula.
Newborn stars are emerging from the famous “Pillars of Creation” within the Eagle nebula, 7,000 light-years away from Earth in the Serpens constellation.
North America Nebula
This image represents an infrared view of the North America nebula, named so because in visible light, the nebula takes the shape of the north-american continent.
This cosmic eye, called the Helix nebula is a formation of gaseous shells and disked emitted by a dying sun-like star.
In 1054 A.D., the death of a star in the Taurus constellation was observed from Earth. Today, the expanding debris field generated by the supernova is called the Crab nebula.
Elephant’s Trunk Nebula
2,450 light-years away, the Elephant’s Trunk nebula is a cloud of dense gas in close contact with the strong ionizing radiation of a massive nearby star, in the constellation of Cepheus
Close to one of the hottest stars visible in the night sky, the Menkhib, the California nebula is a star-forming cloud approximately 1,800 light-years away in the Perseus constellation.
Heart and Soul Nebulae
6,000 light-years away from Earth, in the Perseus arm of our galaxy – opposed to the arm containing our sun – the Heart and Soul nebulae are massive star-forming complexes.
Within the Orion spur, 3,800 light-years away from our planet, the Seagull Nebula is one of the many star-forming clouds inside the same arm of the Milky Way where our solar system is located.
Image credits to NASA/JPL