A dark strip of light-absorbing dust bisects a star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy—an image that took top prize in European Space Agency (ESA)'s Hubble Hidden Treasures contest.
Josh Lake, a Connecticut-based astronomy and physics teacher who digitally processed the award-winning picture, "focused on this spot because of the residual likeness of a seahorse or dragon, but of course it's light-years across," he said.
The ESA received nearly 3,000 submissions for the contest, which opened to the public in March and concluded at the end of May. The results were published in August.
The rules? Search the Hubble Space Telescope's image archive—a database so huge not even scientists know exactly how much content it contains—and select favorite frames.
Then, using image-processing software, create a color image to dazzle a team of judges—and the public.
"We thought it might be nice to invite the public in to have a look for themselves, and to pair this with an astronomical image-processing competition," said contest administrator Oli Usher.
Lake's image won both the judges' and the public's vote.
(See "Hubble Telescope at 20: NASA Astronomers' Top Photos.")