Aug 1, 2009
The Trifid Nebula. A ‘stellar nursery’, 9,000 light years from here, it is where new stars are being born.The glowering eyes from 114 million light years away are the swirling cores of two merging galaxies called NGC 2207 and IC 2163 in the distant Canis Major constellation.Starry Night, so named because it reminded astronomers of the Van Gogh painting. It is a halo of light around a star in the Milky Way.The Perfect Storm, a small region in the Swan Nebula, 5,500 light years away, described as ‘a bubbly ocean of hydrogen and small amounts of oxygen, sulphur and other elements’.In sixth place is the Cone Nebula. The part pictured here is 2.5 light years in length (the equivalent of 23 million return trips to the Moon).The Hourglass Nebula, 8,000 light years away, has a ‘pinched-in-the-middle’ look because the winds that shape it are weaker at the centre.At four is the Cat’s Eye Nebula.In third place is Nebula NGC 2392, called ‘Eskimo’ because it looks like a face surrounded by a furry hood. The hood is, in fact, a ring of comet-shaped objects flying away from a dying star. Eskimo is 5,000 light years from Earth.The Ant Nebula, a cloud of dust and gas whose technical name is Mz3, resembles an ant when observed using ground-based telescopes… The nebula lies within our galaxy between 3,000 and 6,000 light years from Earth.The Sombrero Galaxy – 28 million light years from Earth – was voted best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. The dimensions of the galaxy, officially called M104, are as spectacular as its appearance. It has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across.