Campbell’s Hydrogen Star

HD 184738This is Campbell’s hydrogen star (aka HD 184738). It is surrounded by plumes of reddish gas—the red and orange are the glow of surrounding gases such as hydrogen and nitrogen. The star is at the center of a small planetary nebula, and very bright in the infrared part of the spectrum. The surrounding dust is probably very similar to the material from which the Earth formed. The origin of this dust is uncertain.

Image Credit: NASA


This JWST’s near-infrared view of Herbig-Haro 211 reveals exquisite detail of the outflow of a young star. Herbig-Haro objects are formed when high speed stellar winds or jets of gas flowing from newborn stars produce shock waves as they collide with nearby gas and dust.

The bow shocks in this image are moving to the southeast (lower-left) and northwest (upper-right) powered by the narrow bipolar jets from the star. Molecules excited by the turbulent conditions, including hydrogen, carbon monoxide and silicon monoxide, glow in infrared light.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / Tom Ray (Dublin)

NGC 3156

This is NGC 3156, a lenticular galaxy with visible threads of dark reddish-brown dust across its disk. Lenticular galaxies have lens-like appearance when viewed from the side or edge-on. They share characteristics with both elliptical and spiral galaxies. Like spirals, lenticulars have a central bulge of stars and a large disk surrounding it. They often have dark dust lanes like spirals, but no large-scale spiral arms. Like ellipticals, lenticular galaxies have mostly older stars and little ongoing star formation.

NGC 3156 isabout 73 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Sextans.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Messier 15

m15_hubble_960M15 (in the constellation of Pegasus) is an easy target for backyard astronomers. On a clear night, it’s visible as fuzzy spot with a decent pair of binoculars. A 150-mm or larger telescope will reveal some individual stars in the cluster. Here’s what it looks like using Hubble.

The cluster is estimated to be one of the oldest known, about 12 billion years old. It contains over 100 variable stars, eight known pulsars, and a double neutron star. Its central region has undergone core collapse and may contain a black hole.

Image Credit: NASA

An Inside View of a Coronal Mass Ejection

In September, 2022, the Parker Solar Probe flew through one of the most powerful coronal mass ejections (CMEs) ever recorded. Parker’s data gathering while in the CME is providing information about the interaction of CMEs with interplanetary dust, with implications for space weather predictions.The spacecraft Parker Solar Probe watched the CME clearing the dust out of its path. The interaction between the CME and dust shows up as decreased brightness in images from Parker’s Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) camera because interplanetary dust reflects light, amplifying brightness where the dust is present.

Image Credit: NASA

Terzan 12

The globular star cluster Terzan 12 is an excellent example of how the dust in space affects starlight coming from background objects. The location of this globular cluster, deep in the Milky Way in the constellation Sagittarius about 15,000 light-years away, means that it is shrouded in gas and dust which absorb its starlight. Intervening dust particles between Earth and the cluster to scatter blue light, so mostly the redder wavelengths make it to Earth, and interstellar dust clouds are inconsistent causing parts of the cluster look redder than others.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann

73P/Schwassmann–Wachmann (aka Schwassmann–Wachmann 3 or SW3) is a periodic comet that has a 5.4 year orbital period and that has been actively disintegrating since 1995. It initially broke into four large pieces labeled 73P-A, B, C and D. As of March 2006, at least eight fragments were known: B, C, G, H, J, L, M and N. This animated gif of Fragment B was put together from Hubble images taken over a period of 3 days in April, 2016.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI

SN 1987A

JWST’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) captured this detailed image of SN 1987A, the remnant of supernova 1987A). The material ejected from the supernova in the center of the remnant forms a keyhole shape. The faint crescents just outside the center were newly discovered by JWST.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / M. Matsuura (Cardiff University) / R. Arendt (GSFC & UMBCy) / C. Fransson

JWST Looks at Neptune

JWST has turned its IR vision on Neptune. The eight planet’s dark and ghostly appearance is caused by atmospheric methane absorbing infrared light. High clouds above most of Neptune’s absorbing methane easily stand out in this image. Because its surface is coated with frozen nitrogen, Neptune’s largest moon Triton (in the upper left) is brighter in than Neptune in reflected IR sunlight. It’s surrounded by JWST’s characteristic diffraction spikes.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI

The Brightest Planetary Nebula in Orion

NGC 2022 is the brightest planetary nebula in the constellation Orion. In early telescopes (and in today’s medium-sized amateur telescopes) such nebulae look like small grayish patches of light. Since they don’t look like stars, but a bit like the gas giant planets, early astronomers tagged them as “planetary nebula,” and the name has stuck.

When stars like the Sun grow old, they expand into red giants. They then begin to lose their outer layers into space, forming a shell of gas. As the evolving star’s core shrinks and grows hotter, it emits ultraviolet light that causes the expelled gases to glow.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

The Crescent Phase

Crescent SaturnThis is a view of Saturn partially lit in crescent phase, a view that can only be seen when the object is between the observer and the Sun. From the Earth, we can only see Mercury and Venus in varying crescent phases and Mars and the other outer planets fully lit. Because the Moon can be either between the Earth and the Sun or farther away, we see it go through all the phases from New to Full to New again.

This picture of Saturn was made by the Cassini spacecraft.

Image Credit: NASA

M104 in IR

Messier 104 is also known as the Sombrero Galaxy. Seen in visible light, it has has bright nucleus and a very large central bulge. We see it almost edge on, and its dark perimeter dust lanes and the bulge give it an appearance like a sombrero hat.

The picture above was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer’s infrared camera uncovered the bright, smooth ring of dust circling the galaxy (red in this false color image). Because this galaxy is seen nearly edge-on, only the near rim of dust can be clearly seen in visible light. Spitzer’s view shows the disk is warped, probably the result of a gravitational encounter with another galaxy. It also reveals areas of new star formation on the far side of the ring.

Image Credit: NASA

A Cosmic Ribbon

This ribbon-like cloud is a small section of an expanding supernova remnant created by a shock wave that heats and ionizes surrounding ambient gas. The supernova is cataloged as SN1066. Light from that supernova reached Earth in 1066 AD, and the “guest star” was visible for a couple of years, at times brighter than Venus. The remnant is still expanding and is over 60 light-years across.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

A Hazy Lenticular Galaxy

NGC 6684 is a lenticular galaxy, disk-shaped  but without the spiral arms of galaxies like the Andromeda Galaxy or our Milky Way. Thus, lenticular galaxies are somewhere between elliptical galaxies and spiral galaxies, often with a diffuse, ghostly look. NGC 6684 also lacks the dark dust lanes that thread through other galaxies, adding to its hazy appearance.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA