A new infrared picture reveals the intricate structure of the Helix Nebula, the rust-colored remains of a star like our sun that puffed up as it died and shed its shells of gas and dust into space.
In visible light, fine details in the Helix are largely obscured by dust. But the infrared view—snapped by the European Southern Observatory's VISTA telescope—can pierce this veil to see radiating filaments of cooler gas in the rings as well as a faint halo of thinly spread gas that extends to at least four light-years from the dead star's core.
Image courtesy ESO
A satellite picture shows the wrecked luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia lying on its side in the waters off the Italian island of Giglio on January 13.
On January 20 rescue workers once again suspended operations as choppy seas caused the vessel to shift along the rocky shoals where it had run aground last week. The movements have managers worried that the ship could slide into deeper waters, carrying rescue teams along with it.
Italian naval officer Cmdr. Alessandro Busonero said the ship was shifting about an inch (2.5 centimeters) every two hours, according to the New York Times.
Photograph from DigitalGlobe via European Pressphoto Agency
A phytoplankton bloom traces a figure eight in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 373 miles (600 kilometers) east of the British-held Falkland Islands in a newly released satellite picture from the European Space Agency.
Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms that make up the base of the marine food chain. In spring and summer, upwelling nutrients from deeper waters can fuel massive plankton blooms at the surface.
Different types and quantities of phytoplankton appear as differently colored blooms, as seen in the varying shades of blue and green above.
Image courtesy ESA
Multicolored gullies are splayed along the edges of a Martian impact crater in a newly released picture from the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The crater appears to be relatively "fresh"—just a million years old, according to NASA. Colors in the gullies likely represent different rock types that have been exposed along the crater's steep slopes. This means the gullies have not yet been covered by a layer of windblown Martian dirt, which hints that material was sliding down the slopes relatively recently.
Image courtesy U. Arizona/NASA
Like a cosmic turducken, this "pelican" stuffed inside a "swan" is being baked by intense heat from massive newborn stars, as seen in a new picture from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's Kitt Peak facility in Tucson, Arizona.
The Pelican Nebula, found in the constellation Cygnus, is a giant star-forming region about 1,800 light-years from Earth. The picture shows the nebula's oxygen (blue), hydrogen (green), and sulfur (red) gases glowing as their atoms become electrically charged by the stars' ultraviolet radiation.
Image courtesy T.A. Rector, UAA/NOAO/NSF
The full moon seems to sink into Earth's baby blue atmosphere as if into water, as seen in an astronaut picture taken from the International Space Station on January 9.
In reality, the disk of the moon is distorted here—its light is being bent by Earth's thick atmospheric layers.
Photograph courtesy NASA
A new picture from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's Kitt Peak facility in Tucson, Arizona, shows the unusual shape of the planetary nebula KjPn8, which lies in the constellation Cassiopeia.
Despite their name, planetary nebulae are actually the remains of dead sunlike stars. This bipolar nebula's complex structure was most likely caused by irregular ejections of gas as its star puffed up and shed its outer layers of gas.
Image courtesy T.A. Rector and H. Schweiker, WIYN/UAA/NOAO/NSF