nebula pictures


Blown by fast winds from a hot, massive star, this cosmic bubble is huge. Cataloged as Sharpless 2-308 it lies some 5,200 light-years away toward the constellation of the Big Dog (Canis Major) and covers slightly more of the sky than a full moon. That corresponds to a diameter of 60 light-years at its estimated distance. The massive star that created the bubble, a Wolf-Rayet star, is the bright one near the center of the nebula. Wolf-Rayet stars have over 20 times the mass of the Sun and are thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova phase of massive star evolution. Fast winds from this Wolf-Rayet star create the bubble-shaped nebula as they sweep up slower moving material from an earlier phase of evolution. The windblown nebula has an age of about 70,000 years. Relatively faint emission captured in the expansive image is dominated by the glow of ionized oxygen atoms mapped to a blue hue.

Credit: Anis Abdul (Via NASA APOD)

Time And Space

Science Aesthetics

I was feeling inspired last night, so I decided to make this purely for fun.

To the moon and back: Cold, dark nights clutching thermos flasks of hot coffee. Machinery whirring as telescopes trace a star across the sky. Intricate, geometric drawings of the celestial sphere. A messy bun and a NASA t-shirt. Filling in the logbook while punk rock blares in the background to keep you energised and awake. Pictures of nebulae and galaxies everywhere, because pretty space pictures is half the fun. Annoyed huffs every time someone mentions their star sign.

Natural Philosopher: Long, intellectual debates in coffee shops about mathematics, physics, philosophy. Chalkboards covered with equations and calculations in a precise, curving handwriting. That Eureka moment while deep in thought, expressed only with a small smile and a scribbled proof on the back of a serviette. Chaotic desks in front of bookshelves groaning with old textbooks. Antique lab equipment as functional decor.

Trust Me, I’m a Scientist”: Large computer screens running freshly-typed code. Neat lab books and PDFs of journal articles. The smell of whiteboard markers. Polished new equipment in a tangle of cables, hooked up to a digital oscilloscope. Exact amounts of chemicals in rows in metal shelves. Resting your feet up on the bench after a long day in the lab. The satisfying hum of your colleagues as they work on their experiments around you.   

Science Expedition: Dirt under your nails and a loosely-bound collection of field notes. Plant clippings carefully taken to be analysed back in the lab. Soft fur on tough, wild animals. The bitter smoke from eco-friendly firewood while you roast marshmallows and listen to a supervisor’s witty stories. Free-handing diagrams while looking through a microscope. Sketching flowers and that gorgeous ocean view from your last field trip. Reading Darwin on the bus home but falling asleep on your lab partner’s shoulder out of sheer exhaustion after the first three pages.

Life is a Science: Scrolling past an anti-vax facebook post and resisting the urge to burn down the internet. Shiny dissection kits and the sharp smell of formaldehyde. Making time to work out and pack a healthy lunch because your mind is sharpest when your body is well. Debunking the latest superfood fad with peer-reviewed journal articles. Making friends with some of the nicer med school kids in anatomy class. Colour-coded, neatly labelled diagrams and a thousand different terms memorised. Getting a double-helix DNA sculpture for your desk.      

What they show on TV isn’t real hacking: Rubbing your eyes after staring at a screen for five hours straight. Having a blank keyboard because all the letters are rubbed off already. Energy drinks in strange colours at strange hours. Being fluent in four different coding languages. Circuit boards and printouts. Ones and zeroes. Running jokes about turning everything off and on again. Rage-quitting when you realise you forgot a comma or a colon somewhere. Black screens with brightly coloured lines. The comforting click-click of fingertips tapping keys. Applying to intern at Google every three months because maybe they’ll take you this time. Writing a piece of code to do something simple just because.

Space Balls

Recently I’ve been playing with wet on wet watercolor techniques.  This watercolor technique works wonders with creating backgrounds, skies, water, and space.  By wetting your work area first with water, you can create organic shapes and water movement that mimic things you would find in nature.  Make sure you only wet areas you want the colors to flow with clean water.  Or your painting will become muddy and washed out.

This is step one.  Filling in the area with color.  If you experience pooling you can either:

1. Mop it up with a brush/towel/paper

2. Tilt your paper to evenly distribute the water but risk muddying colors

3. Let it dry for a darker effect but risk getting bleeding 

Experiment with different color combinations.  You can look up galaxies, nebulas, and stars online but just experimenting works even better.  

Possible color combos that worked:

1. Warm colors: reds/oranges/pinks/yellow

2. Cool colors: Blue/purple/green

3. Mix it up, if you add in just cool colors, you can add a pop/drop of red to really give it a pop.

Now we need to darken up the borders and around the organic color flows you have created.  Let it dry slightly and then mix up very dark purple with a base of blue.

Fill in edges and then go back and get high paint to water ratios of your colors (orange) and dip your brush in those areas.  Watch the color bleed into the dark purple.  Add and experiment as desired.

Check out that bleeding action!  It’s exactly what you want.  

Now take a white gel pen/white gouache/white watered down acrylic paint and tap your brush with a pencil to get nice star variations.  I even used silver calligraphy ink to add even more dimension to the stars.  Not all stars are white.  You can make them silver, gold, light blue, light yellow, cream or anything that works for you.

What I did next is scan some of my “space balls” into my computer, cut them out into perfect circles and arrange them as a print.  You can check it out below.

Experiment and enjoy!  I think this picture “tutorial” is okay but a video would definitely convey some of the technique better.  Look forward to that.



Is the heart and soul of our Galaxy located in Cassiopeia? Possibly not, but that is where two bright emission nebulas nicknamed Heart and Soul can be found. The Heart Nebula, officially dubbed IC 1805 and visible in the featured image on the right, has a shape reminiscent of a classical heart symbol. Both nebulas shine brightly in the red light of energized hydrogen. Several young open clusters of stars populate the image and are visible here in blue, including the nebula centers. Light takes about 6,000 years to reach us from these nebulas, which together span roughly 300 light years. Studies of stars and clusters like those found in the Heart and Soul Nebulas have focused on how massive stars form and how they affect their environment.

What dark structures arise from the Pelican Nebula? Visible as a bird-shaped nebula toward the constellation of a bird (Cygnus, the Swan), the Pelican Nebula is a place dotted with newly formed stars but fouled with dark dust. These smoke-sized dust grains formed in the cool atmospheres of young stars and were dispersed by stellar winds and explosions. Impressive Herbig-Haro jets are seen emitted by a star on the right that is helping to destroy the light year-long dust pillar that contains it. The featured image was scientifically-colored to emphasize light emitted by small amounts of ionized nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur in the nebula made predominantly of hydrogen and helium. The Pelican Nebula (IC 5067 and IC 5070) is about 2,000 light-years away and can be found with a small telescope to the northeast of the bright star Deneb.

Object Names: Pelican Nebula, IC 5067, IC 5070

Imagte Type: Astronomical

Credit: Larry Van Vleet (LVVASTRO)

Time And Space

Hubble captures brilliant star death in ‘rotten egg’ nebula

The Calabash Nebula, pictured here – which has the technical name OH 231.8+04.2 – is a spectacular example of the death of a low-mass star like the sun.

This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the star going through a rapid transformation from a red giant to a planetary nebula, during which it blows its outer layers of gas and dust out into the surrounding space.

The recently ejected material is spat out in opposite directions with immense speed – the gas shown in yellow is moving close to one million kilometers per hour (621,371 miles per hour).

Astronomers rarely capture a star in this phase of its evolution because it occurs within the blink of an eye – in astronomical terms.

Over the next thousand years the nebula is expected to evolve into a fully-fledged planetary nebula.

The nebula is also known as the Rotten Egg Nebula because it contains a lot of sulphur, an element that, when combined with other elements, smells like a rotten egg – but luckily, it resides over 5,000 light-years away in the constellation of Puppis.

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble …. maybe Macbeth should have consulted the Witch Head Nebula. A suggestively shaped reflection nebula, this cosmic crone is about 800 light-years away though. Its frightening visage seems to glare toward nearby bright star Rigel in Orion, just off the right edge of this frame. More formally known as IC 2118, the interstellar cloud of dust and gas is nearly 70 light-years across, its dust grains reflecting Rigel’s starlight. In this composite portrait, the nebula’s color is caused not only by the star’s intense bluish light but because the dust grains scatter blue light more efficiently than red. The same physical process causes Earth’s daytime sky to appear blue, although the scatterers in planet Earth’s atmosphere are molecules of nitrogen and oxygen.

Object Names: Witch Head Nebula, 2118

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Jeff signorelli

Time And Space

What causes the structure in Comet Lovejoy’s tail? As the name implies, the ion tail is made of ionized gas – gas energized by ultraviolet light from the Sun and pushed outward by the solar wind. The solar wind is quite structured and sculpted by the Sun’s complex and ever changing magnetic field. The effect of the variable solar wind combined with different gas jets venting from the comet’s nucleus accounts for the tail’s complex structure. Following the wind, structure in Comet Lovejoy’s tail can be seen to move outward from the Sun even alter its wavy appearance over time. The blue color of the ion tail is dominated by recombining carbon monoxide molecules, while the green color of the coma surrounding the head of the comet is created mostly by a slight amount of recombining diatomic carbon molecules. The featured three-panel mosaic image was taken from the IRIDA Observatory in Bulgaria.

Object Names: Comet C/2014, Comet Lovejoy

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Vladimir Popov, Emil Ivanov (IRIDA Observatory)

Time And Space

Herschels Eagle Nebula : A now famous picture from the Hubble Space Telescope featured Pillars of Creation, star forming columns of cold gas and dust light-years long inside M16, the Eagle Nebula. This false-color composite image views the nearby stellar nursery using data from the Herschel Space Observatorys panoramic exploration of interstellar clouds along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Herschels far infrared detectors record the emission from the regions cold dust directly. The famous pillars are included near the center of the scene. While the central group of hot young stars is not apparent at these infrared wavelengths, the stars radiation and winds carve the shapes within the interstellar clouds. Scattered white spots are denser knots of gas and dust, clumps of material collapsing to form new stars. The Eagle Nebula is some 6,500 light-years distant, an easy target for binoculars or small telescopes in a nebula rich part of the sky toward the split constellation Serpens Cauda . via NASA