The object is what's known as a planetary nebula, which is made from the gas and dust left over after a sunlike star dies. The dense core of the star, called a white dwarf, sits at the center of this eerie cosmic "eye."
Image courtesy Caltech/NASA
Seen in a false-color NASA satellite picture snapped in 2011, the Columbia glacier (deep blue) flows into a narrow inlet, which leads into Prince William Sound in southeastern Alaska. The region is rimmed by vegetation (green) and exposed bedrock (brown).
The glacier has been rapidly retreating since 1980, according to NASA. Satellite images of the region—including this one—show that between 1986 and 2011, the extent of the ice shrunk by more than 12 miles (20 kilometers).
Image courtesy Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, USGS/NASA
Rings of Andromeda
Blue-white rings create a cosmic bull's eye in this new ultraviolet picture of the Andromeda galaxy, the Milky Way's largest galactic neighbor, which sits about 2.5 million light-years away.
Astronomers think the rings are evidence that Andromeda collided with another neighbor, the galaxy M32, more than 200 million years ago.
Image courtesy Caltech/NASA
Lifting the Veil
Dark clouds drift across a waning gibbous moon on May 10, as seen in a picture snapped from San Jose, California and submitted to National Geographic's Your Shot.
According to photographer Erick Montero, the region was too cloudy for people to see the previous week's supermoon—when the full moon coincided with the lunar orb's closest approach to Earth. But later views of the partially full moon were still "mysterious and surreal," he wrote with his submission.
Photograph by Erick Montero, Your Shot
A "waterfall" of soft green light drops from the heavens, as seen in a picture taken from the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko, Sweden, that was recently submitted to National Geographic's My Shot.
Photograph by Fan Meng, My Shot
Seen under a polarizing microscope, different minerals appear in a variety of hues in three slices from meteorites—all of which were recently confirmed as parts of the giant asteroid Vesta.
The dusty golden glow of the planetary nebula known as Sharpless 2-71 is seen in a newly released picture from the Gemini North observatory in Hawaii.
Although the nebula was discovered in 1946, astronomers are still debating which star created the complex cloud of dust and gas. Some hold that the bright star at the center of the object is the one that shed shells of material as it swelled and died, forming the nebula.
But the central star doesn't appear to radiate the right amounts of high-energy light to cause the surrounding gas to glow as intensely as we see today. This led other experts to suspect that a dimmer, bluer star—which does pump out enough high-energy radiation—might be the nebula's true parent.