Space Pictures This Week: Sun Loops, Blue Marble, More
Huge loops of plasma—superheated, charged gas—rise from an active region on the sun in a newly released picture from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Each loop is as tall as several Earths stacked on top of each other.
The Pelican Nebula, found in the constellation Cygnus, is a giant star-forming region about 1,800 light-years from Earth. The picture shows the nebula's oxygen (blue), hydrogen (green), and sulfur (red) gases glowing as their atoms become electrically charged by the stars' ultraviolet radiation.
An image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope gives the clearest view ever of the Quintuplet star cluster, a massive collection of young stars 25,000 light-years from Earth but only a hundred light-years from the center of the Milky Way. The cluster's proximity to the core of our galaxy means it is destined to be ripped apart in just a few million years.
This image of the Whirlpool galaxy shows the classic features of a spiral galaxy: curving outer arms where newborn stars reside and a yellowish central core, home to older stars. A companion galaxy called NGC 5195, seen here at the tip of one of Whirlpool's arms (right), has been passing by for hundreds of millions of years and exerting gravitational forces on its larger neighbor.