Looking like a magical sorcerer, the Wizard Nebula is a star-forming region located some 8000 light-years from Earth within our Milky Way galaxy.
Imaged here by the four-meter Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, the giant cloud of gas and dust surrounds an open cluster of young stars some five million years old. Radiation emitted by the stellar cluster lights up the colorful nebula from which it was born.
The Wizard, known formally as NGC 7380, stretches more than 100 light-years across, appearing larger than the disk of a full moon, and is visible in small telescopes within the northern constellation Cepheus.
Image courtesy T.A. Rector and H. Schweiker, UAA/WIYN/NOAO/NSF
Coronal holes are less dense than cooler regions in the outer solar atmosphere and appear darker to satellite cameras than surrounding areas of the sun.
Image courtesy SOHO/ESA/NASA
Round and Round
The New Technology Telescope (NTT) located at La Silla Observatory in Chile's high altitude Atacama desert appears to spin here like a top as its blurred movement is captured over a 30-second exposure.
With an 11.7-foot (3.58-meter) mirror, this telescope was never considered that large but its design is unique among professional observatories. Using adaptive optics—where the mirror remains flexible and able to maintain a perfect shape without flexing or sagging—astronomers can capture crystal clear images of faint objects like exoplanetary systems and distant galaxies.
Photograph courtesy M. Tewes, ESO
An unusual atmospheric phenomena visible from the International Space Station is captured in this June 24 image of northeastern Lake Superior in Ontario, Canada.
Distinct parallel bands of clouds perpendicular to the wind—called gravity waves—are visible at the center of this image. Cool air slides over warmer air, creating an up and down flow that forms this design, visible only from the unique vantage point of space.
Photograph courtesy NASA
Like a cosmic tree, the Milky Way band of stars appears to rise out from an ancient pine tree forest at Cedar Breaks National Monument in southern Utah.
Among the longest-lived organisms, some of the twisted bristlecone trees—picture above in the foreground—are 5000 years old.
Because of the vast distance between these stars and Earth, some of the starlight seen in this picture was actually emitted years ago, when these trees were just saplings.
While Boeing's new CST-100 spacecraft—undergoing tests in July—is reminiscent of the old Apollo-era capsules on the outside, the newly unveiled space taxi is filled with state-of-the-art technology like tablet computers on the inside.
Expected to fly by the middle of the decade, the CST-100 will ferry up to seven astronauts, plus cargo, to the International Space Station.
Photograph courtesy Robert Markowitz, NASA
Launched only a month ago, NASA's newest sun-watching satellite, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), sent back its first image of the sun's lower atmosphere on June 25—the clearest picture ever of this mysterious region.
A large dark sunspot is visible in the lower right of the image, but its surroundings are filled with previously unseen features that NASA describes as "a multitude of thin, fibril-like structures."
Astronomers hope this new telescope will help them understand how massive amounts of energy move in loops and arcs throughout our parent star's lower atmosphere.
Image courtesy NASA
Located 2,400 light-years from Earth, the Elephant Trunk nebula, captured here by the Mayall four-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, is home to over 200 baby stars less than 100,000 years old.
Resembling a pachyderm's proboscis and head, this elongated cloud of gas and dust stretches nearly 20 light-years in length and is sculpted by the strong winds produced by the massive stars lying within.