The Cat's Paw nebula, also known as NGC 6334, is one of the most prolific star factories in the Milky Way.
The newly installed ArTeMis camera on the APEX telescope delivers this stunning near-infrared view of NGC 6334, a swirling mix of gas and dust seen from Chile's Atacama Desert.
Located in the southern constellation Scorpius, the Cat's Paw lies some 5,500 light-years from Earth and spans 50 light-years across, covering the same amount of nighttime sky as the full moon.
After giving birth to tens of thousands of newborn stars over its lifetime, the nebula now swaddles and hides from view at least 2,000 young stars—newborns hidden amid clouds of dust grains seen shining in orange-brown hues—still waiting to emerge and drift away into space.
Image courtesy ARTEMIS Team/CASU/VISTA/ESO
NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft snapped this close-up view of the 59-mile-wide (95-kilometer-wide) Hokusai crater on September 17, while orbiting Mercury.
Sporting grand central peaks and an extensive set of bright rays that extend for 600 miles (1,000 kilometers), Hokusai is believed to be one of the youngest impact sites on the solar system's innermost planet.
Image courtesy JHUAPL/CIW/NASA
Are those devil's horns sprouting from the underside of the sun? Nope, this ultraviolet image snapped by NASA's STEREO space probe reveals twin arcs of super-heated gas, called solar prominences, flung into space by Sol on September 14.
Heated to thousands of degrees, these giant filaments of plasma are twisted into intricate ribbons by the powerful magnetic fields surrounding giant groups of sunspots.
Image courtesy SOHO/ESA/NASA
Resembling Braille letters, irrigated agricultural plots dot the Sahara in southeastern Libya. The view was captured by Japan's ALOS satellite and released on September 20.
Each plot is 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) wide. Between the city of Al Jawf, seen in the upper left of this image, and the circular plots are the two parallel runways of the local airport.
Shaped by Martian weather over great periods of time, the light ripples of coarse stones crisscross dark sand dunes. Here, they can be seen filling in the upper stretch of the Valles Marineris, the Grand Canyon of Mars.