This black and white image might look like static on a very old television, but each dot is in fact a star. There are more than 200,000 stars in this photo alone, taken by NASA’s new Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TESS. Standing out along the lower edge of the photo is the star Beta Centauri. This is the very first image TESS took upon arriving in space in April. Once settled into orbit around Earth, it will officially begin the mission of hunting for exoplanets around other stars.
This is the G305 complex, a stellar nursery of massive proportions. The so-called star forming complex is home to almost 16 high-mass stars born from the gasses in this region. The darker gray and blue areas are the hottest, and home to the youngest stars, while the reds and oranges are older areas with more mature stellar objects. These areas of gas are leftover clouds from the Big Bang; if they are dense enough, the gas particles can eventually bind together, heat up, and potentially turn into a star. But don’t expect new stars to form overnight! The early stages of formation alone can take more than 10 million years.
Wait, that’s not where Jupiter’s red spot is supposed to be! The gas giant looks upside down in this photo—a new perspective on our solar system’s behemoth. The Juno spacecraft, which sweeps over the poles of the planet every 53 days on a highly elongated orbit, took this fooled-you shot on April 1. The unusual angle makes the Great Red Spot appear as though it’s in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere instead of in the south.
No, you aren’t seeing double: Meet NGC 5426 and NGC 5427, two giant and nearly identical spiral galaxies. Together they form a region called Arp 271, which is located more than 110 million light years away. That means this image shows what the galaxies looked like 110 million years ago, since of course it has taken their light that long to get to us here on Earth. The mass of each galaxy is drawing the other nearer and nearer, eventually forcing them to merge in a brilliant and violent dance of gas and stars.
This colorful object called E0102 is a neutron star, a rare one since most neutron stars typically are found to have a stellar companion nearby. Neutron stars are extremely dense objects that turn into supernovas when they collapse on themselves. The result is this explosion of gas and debris, seen here in a composite from three different telescopes. It’s a rainbow-colored remnant of a rather dramatic event: X-rays from the Chandra Observatory are in blue and purple; visible light from the Very Large Telescope is in bright red; and the darker red and greens are from the Hubble Space Telescope. Those green, filament-like striations are essentially star shrapnel hurtling out into space at millions of miles per hour.
NGC 1032, a large spiral galaxy like our own, represents a perfect example of our unique, Earth-based point of view. When we aim our telescopes at it, we see NGC 1032 edge-on—making it look more like a flying saucer than your usual galactic body. Its dark band of gas wraps around, while the glow from its galactic core radiates out from the center. All those other galaxies in the background? This is just a snapshot of the area around the constellation Cetus. There’s no end, it seems, to what you can see in any corner of the universe.