IC 1396 H-Alpha - Clouds of glowing hydrogen gas mingle ominously with dark dust lanes in this close-up of IC 1396, an active star forming region some 2,000 light years away in the constellation Cepheus. In this and other similar emission nebulae, energetic ultraviolet light from a hot young star strips electrons from the surrounding hydrogen atoms. As the electrons and atoms recombine they emit longer wavelength, lower energy light in a well known characteristic pattern of bright spectral lines. At visible wavelengths, the strongest emission line in this pattern is in the red part of the spectrum and is known as “Hydrogen-alpha” or just H-alpha. Part of IPHAS, a survey of H-alpha emission in our Milky Way Galaxy, this image spans about 20 light-years and highlights bright, dense regions within IC 1396, likely sites where massive new stars are born.
Credit - Nick Wright (University College London), IPHAS Collaboration
Grand Spiral Galaxy NGC 7424 - About 40 million light-years distant in the headlong constellation Grus, this island universe is also about 100,000 light-years across making it remarkably similar to our own Milky Way. Following along the winding arms, many bright clusters of massive young stars can be found. The star clusters themselves are several hundred light-years in diameter.
Spiky stars and spooky shapes abound in this deep cosmic skyscape. Its well-composed field of view covers about 2 Full Moons on the sky toward the constellation Pegasus. Other galaxies far beyond the Milky Way are visible through the ghostly apparitions, including the striking spiral galaxy NGC 7497 some 60 million light-years away.
WR 134 Ring Nebula - Made with narrow and broad band filters, this colorful cosmic snap shot covers a field of view about the size of the full Moon within the boundaries of the constellation Cygnus. It highlights the bright edge of a ring-like nebula traced by the glow of ionized hydrogen and oxygen gas.
Messier 17 lies some 5,500 light-years away in the nebula-rich constellation Sagittarius.
AE Aurigae and the Flaming Star Nebula - The bright star AE Aurigae, visible near the nebula center, is so hot it is blue, emitting light so energetic it knocks electrons away from atoms in the surrounding gas. When an atom recaptures an electron, light is emitted creating the surrounding emission nebula. In this cosmic portrait, the Flaming Star nebula lies about 1,500 light years distant, spans about 5 light years, and is visible with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Charioteer (Auriga).
A Perseid meteor blazes through the night sky near the constellation Cassiopeia, a celestial queen, in this eye-popping view.
Astrophotographer VegaStar Carpentier took this stunning photo on Aug.11, 2012, in Épernay, Champagne-Ardenne, France, using a Canon EOS 1000D.
The Perseid meteor shower has been observed by humans each summer for more than 2,000 years, It occurs when the Earth passes through debris left from the comet Swift-Tuttle. The dust and ice begin to burn when it reaches Earth’s atmosphere providing a fiery display for those who watch in late July or early August.
The constellation Cassiopeia, named after a mythical Greek queen who boasted about her beauty, can also be seen on the right of the image. This constellation is easily recognizable due to its “W” shape and bright, glimmering stars.
NGC 6914 Nebulae
A dramatic study in contrasts, this colorful skyscape features stars, dust, and glowing gas in NGC 6914. The complex of nebulae lies some 6,000 light-years away, toward the high-flying northern constellation Cygnus and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. With foreground dust clouds in silhouette, both reddish hydrogen emission nebulae and dusty blue reflection nebulae fill the 1/2 degree wide field.