Space has many beautiful mysteries hidden inside. Many people have tried and are still trying to uncover those mysteries. In this inspirational post, we present beautiful photographs from space explorations: nebulas, comets, stars, planets, etc. Hopefully, these beauties will inspire you to create beautiful artwork, Web designs, graphics, wallpaper, illustrations, etc. All of the images are linked to their sources. Click on them to get the high-resolution versions.
Further Reading on SmashingMag:
- 50 Photoshop Tutorials For Sky and Space Effects
- 32 Stunning Outer Space Science Fiction Photoshop Tutorials
- Space and Science Fiction Tutorials
- Out of This World Typography
Beauties in the Outer Space
Messier 104 Messier 104, known as the Sombrero Galaxy, is one of the most popular sights in the universe. This floating ring is the size of a galaxy. In fact, it is part of the photogenic Sombrero Galaxy, one of the largest galaxies in the nearby Virgo Cluster of Galaxies. The dark band of dust that obscures the mid-section of the Sombrero Galaxy in optical light actually glows brightly in infrared light. The Sombrero Galaxy, also known as M104, spans about 50,000 light years across and lies 28 million light years away.
Hoag’s Object Despite the vagueness of its name, “Hoag’s Object” galaxy is known to have some rare and inexplicable traits, not the least of which is the “halo” of stars surrounding its core.
NASA - Bursting with Stars The most active star-forming galaxy in the distant universe, nicknamed the “Baby Boom” galaxy, loosely resembles the galaxy shown here, called Zw II 96. While Zw II 96 is located about 500 million light-years away, Baby Boom lies 12.3 billion light-years away and appears in images as only a smudge.
Ring Nebula The NASA Hubble Space Telescope captured the sharpest view yet of the most famous of all planetary nebulae: the Ring Nebula (M57). This photo reveals elongated dark clumps of material embedded in the gas at the edge of the nebula; the dying central star floating in a blue haze of hot gas. The nebula is about a light-year in diameter and is located some 2,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Lyra.
Pillars of Creation These eerie, dark pillar-like structures are actually columns of cool interstellar hydrogen gas and dust that are also incubators for new stars. The pillars protrude from the interior wall of a dark molecular cloud like stalagmites from the floor of a cavern. They are part of the “Eagle Nebula” (also called M16 — the 16th object in Charles Messier’s 18th century catalog of “fuzzy” objects that aren’t comets), a nearby star-forming region 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Serpens.
2008 November 1 - A Spectre in the Eastern Veil The Veil Nebula is a large supernova remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. While the Veil is roughly circular in shape covering nearly 3 degrees on the sky in the constellation Cygnus, this portion of the eastern Veil spans only 1⁄2 degree, about the apparent size of the Moon.
NGC 2818 It may look like a seahorse, but the dark object is actually a pillar of smoky dust about 20 light-years long. The structure occurs in our neighbouring Large Magellanic Cloud, in a star-forming region near the Tarantula Nebula.
Swan Nebula This photo shows a bubbly ocean of glowing hydrogen, oxygen, and sulphur gas in the extremely massive and luminous molecular nebula Messier 17. This Hubble photograph captures a small region within Messier 17 (M17), a hotbed of star formation. M17, also known as the Omega or Swan Nebula, is located about 5500 light-years away in the Sagittarius constellation.
NGC 2207 These glowering eyes are the swirling cores of two merging galaxies called NGC 2207 and IC 2163 in Canis Major. Billions of years from now, only one of these two galaxies will remain. Until then, they will slowly pull each other apart.
Planetary Nebula Mz3 Planetary Nebula Mz3: The Ant Nebula. Expelled gas streaming away at 1,000 kilometres per second create a strange ant shape.
Orion Nebula, M42 The Orion Nebula, M42, is only 1,500 light-years away. It offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula’s energetic stars have blown away obscuring dust clouds.
IC 4406 A seemingly square nebula. IC 4406 is probably a hollow cylinder, with its square appearance caused by viewing the cylinder from the side.
M74 M74: The Perfect Spiral. If not perfect, then this spiral galaxy is at least one of the most photogenic. An island universe of about 100 billion stars, 32 million light-years away toward the constellation Pisces, M74 presents a gorgeous face-on view.
NGC 2818 Hubble’s greatest hits: Hubble space telescope images NGC 2818 is a beautiful planetary nebula, the gaseous shroud of a dying sun-like star. It could well offer a glimpse of the future that awaits our own Sun in about five billion years NGC 2818 is a beautiful planetary nebula, the gaseous shroud of a dying sun-like star. It could well offer a glimpse of the future that awaits our own Sun in about five billion years.
IC 1396 IC 1396 is a large nebula in the constellation Cepheus spanning 3 full degrees of winter sky, the same angular distance of six full moons. This image highlights the conspicuous globule IC 1396A - a striking structure sculpted by the radiation of nearby stars.
NGC 7635 A cosmic bubble of titanic proportions called the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635), six light years wide, was formed by violent winds blown out by the hot central supergiant star, several hundred thousand times more luminous than our sun The Bubble Nebula A cosmic bubble of titanic proportions called the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635), six light years wide, was formed by violent winds blown out by the hot central supergiant star, several hundred thousand times more luminous than our sun.
Comet Hyakutake Discovered by amateur astronomer Yuji Hyakutake in January 1996, Comet Hyakutake made a close approach to earth in March 1996. Highly visible even in daylight, the comet put on an amazing visual and photographic spectacle. The comet’s remarkable tail is 360 million miles long, the longest known for any comet.
2008 February 17 - M1: The Crab Nebula from Hubble This is the mess that is left when a star explodes. The Crab Nebula, the result of a supernova seen in 1054 AD, is filled with mysterious filaments. The filaments are not only tremendously complex, but appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and a higher speed than expected from a free explosion.
Stars and stripes in space This composite image combines visible-light, radio and X-ray data for the full shell of the supernova remnant from SN 1006. The small green box along the bright filament at the top of the image corresponds to the dimensions of the Hubble release image.
2008 October 25 - NGC 602 and Beyond Near the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy some 200 thousand light-years distant, lies 5 million year young star cluster NGC 602.
Andromeda galaxy This image is a Galaxy Evolution Explorer observation of the large galaxy in Andromeda, Messier 31. The Andromeda galaxy is the second massive in the local group of galaxies that includes our Milky Way. Andromeda is the nearest large galaxy to our own. The image is a mosaic of 10 separate Galaxy Evolution Explorer images taken in September, 2003.
Orion Nebula - Hubble 2006 mosaic 18000 This file was a candidate in Picture of the Year 2006.
2008 January 5 - M51: Cosmic Whirlpool A stunning pair of interacting galaxies. Perhaps the original spiral nebula, the large galaxy with well defined spiral structure is also cataloged as NGC 5194. Its spiral arms and dust lanes clearly sweep in front of its companion galaxy (right), NGC 5195. The pair are about 31 million light-years distant and officially lie within the boundaries of the small constellation Canes Venatici.
2008 March 18 - M78 and Reflecting Dust Clouds in Orion An eerie blue glow and ominous columns of dark dust highlight M78 and other bright reflection nebula in the constellation of Orion. The dark filamentary dust not only absorbs light, but also reflects the light of several bright blue stars that formed recently in the nebula. Of the two reflection nebulas pictured above, the more famous nebula is M78, on the upper right, while NGC 2071 can be seen to its lower left.
2008 August 7 - At the Sun The picture is a composite of two images taken at special moments in the eclipse sequence, corresponding to the very beginning and the very end of the total eclipse phase. Those times are known to eclipse chasers as 2nd and 3rd contact.
2008 August 19 - NGC 6960: The Witch Pictured above is the west end of the Veil Nebula known technically as NGC 6960 but less formally as the Witch’s Broom Nebula. The expanding debris cloud gains its colors by sweeping up and exciting existing nearby gas. The supernova remnant lies about 1400 light-years away towards the constellation of Cygnus. This Witch’s Broom actually spans over three times the angular size of the full Moon.
A Supernova Ribbon from Hubble A twisting ribbon of glowing gas marks the point where the expanding blast wave from a stellar explosion known as SN 1006 is sweeping through.
Horsehead nebula The Horsehead nebula, B33 and Orion nebula.
Orion Nebula Also known as M42, the nebula’s glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula’s energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view.
Helix Nebula HR Real, deep space images captured by the Hubble telescope.
Triangulum galaxy Otherwise known as M33 is one of the nearest galaxies to us and is the smallest member of the local group of galaxies.
Andromeda Galaxy The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) is one of the nearest galaxies in our local neighbourhood, and is visible to the naked eye from a dark site. Being so near, it also has a very large apparent size: the width of 6 full moons. The bright blue patch near the top left is designated NGC 206, and is a very large open cluster within M31
NGC6888 “Crescent” or “Medusa” nebula. 19.5 hours of exposition Supernova explosion remnants, among Milky Way stars in the background.
The Cartwheel Galaxy The unusual shape of the Cartwheel Galaxy is likely due to a collision with one of the smaller galaxies on the lower left several hundred million years ago.
Crab Nebula: A Star The neutron star, which has the mass equivalent to the sun crammed into a rapidly spinning ball of neutrons twelve miles across, is the bright white dot in the center of the image.
A Black Hole Overflows (NASA, Chandra, 2/2/09) NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has helped create a spectacular view of Centaurus A that shows the effects of a supermassive black hole. At the center of this nearby galaxy, a central black hole powers jets and lobes that flare against a background of stars and stardust. In the upper left of the image, an X-ray jet extends about 13,000 light years away from the black hole. The material in that jet is travelling at about half the speed of light.
Supernova Explosion 1987A February 24, 1987 will be remembered as one of the most spectacular events observed by astronomers in modern times. The destruction of a massive star in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy, resulted in Supernova 1987A.
Sagittarius constellation Rippling fields of radiation are cast on both sides of Red Spider nebula in the Sagittarius constellation.
Heart Nebula Not surprisingly, the broad, nebular shapes within IC1805 led to its nickname the “Heart Nebula.”
Mars’s “Fear” Moon Unveiled The tiny moon’s most prominent feature is Stickney Crater, pictured above in false color. The impact that created Stickney is thought to have almost shattered the roughly 17-mile-wide (27-kilometer-wide) moon.
Supernova Faint wisps of gas dance across space, the remnants of a violent supernova that would have been visible to the naked eye on Earth for weeks at the dawn of human civilization some 10,000 years ago.
Spiral galaxy M83 Spiral galaxy M83 gleams with its high population of young stars and copious debris and dust.
Sun An arm of super-heated gas, approaching nearly 1 million degrees, erupts from the surface of the Sun.
MyCn18 MyCn18, a young planetary nebula located about 8,000 light years away. This photograph was taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
Unusual Auroras Over Saturn’s North Pole The strange aurora are shown in blue in the above image, while the underlying clouds are shown in red. The previously recorded, also-strange hexagon cloud patterns are visible in red below the aurora. These Saturnian aurora can cover the entire pole, while auroras around Earth and Jupiter are typically confined by magnetic fields to rings surrounding the magnetic poles.
Helix nebula Infrared image by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Helix nebula.
Spiral galaxy M106 Beautiful view of spiral galaxy M106.
Main Galaxy String A beautiful galaxy string showing thousands of galaxies.
M81 galaxy M81 is also known as Bode’s Galaxy.
Monocerotis The star Monocerotis is seen here on the fringe of the Milky Way, brightly illuminated by reflected light from a past explosion.
Beautiful Photographs From Outer Space
Enceladus up close The tortured surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus and its fascinating ongoing geologic activity tell the story of the ancient and present struggles of one tiny world. The enhanced color view of Enceladus seen here is largely of the southern hemisphere. The south polar terrain is marked by a striking set of “blue” fractures and encircled by a conspicuous and continuous chain of folds and ridges. This mosaic was created from 21 false-color frames taken during the Cassini spacecraft’s close approaches to Enceladus on March 9 and July 14, 2005. Images taken using filters sensitive to ultraviolet, visible and infrared light were combined to create the individual frames. (NASA/JPL-Caltech) #
Earth seen from space
A Beautiful View of Huge Clouds Over Earth
Space Shuttle Endeavour A boom used to inspect the shuttle’s heat shield is seen in this photo taken by a member of the shuttle crew.
Recent scenes from the ISS Closer still to Sarychev Peak Volcano, pyroclastic flows can be seen tumbling down its slope (lighter clouds, bottom). Also visible is a closer view of the condensation cloud or “pileus”, formed by the rapidly rising plume. (NASA/JSC) # [Google map]
Recent scenes from the ISS Circular Contrails are visible, east of Lake Nipigon, Canada. (NASA/JSC) # [Google map]
B-52 A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofotress Heavy Bomber Flies Over a Cloud-Covered Ocean, May 31, 1986
Memorable Moments In Human Spaceflight
Space walk Astronaut Ed White performs a space walk, straightening the floating loops of slack in his tether as he moves away from the space shuttle Discovery.
An astronaut in space An astronaut grasps a large power tool during maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope.
American flag on the Moon
Footprint on the surface of the Moon Buzz Aldrin’s famous footprint on the surface of the moon, taken in July of 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission, has come to be a fitting symbol of humanity’s advance into space.
Space shuttle Endeavor Leaving fiery plumes in its wake, the space shuttle Endeavor sears a path into the darkness on its way to the International Space Station.
STS-114 Discovery takes off Plumes of smoke and dust boil from the perimeter of the launch pad during the take-off of STS-114 Discovery.
More Sources Of Inspiration
- Flickr Group: Amateur Astronomy
- Flickr Group: Deep Astronomy
- Flickr Group: Space Exploration
- The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
- Deep Space Astrophotography
- Gazing Through The Outer Space Flickr Pool
- 35 Stunning Hi-Res Public Domain Astronomy Images
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