There are approximately 100 billion stars in the Milky Way — each one a massive ball of hydrogen and helium burning until it eventually becomes a white dwarf or explodes in a supernova. It’s stunning to behold, but where stars begin are just as beautiful.
This week, NASA captured not one but two celestial nurseries brimming with star formation. The Chandra and Hubble telescopes photographed a glorious giant molecular cloud W51, only 17,000 light years away from Earth. Its dense mix of hydrogen molecules and helium atoms constantly produce stars and planets. In a 20-second exposure, Chandra captured over 600 young stars glittering in the darkness.
Hubble wasn’t finished star-hunting. It snapped an image of NGC 2500, a barred spiral galaxy 30 million light years away in the Lynx constellation. You can see NGC 2500’s classic spindly arms spinning out from the core, glowing with newly born stars.
The rest of the universe offered up some stiff competition for best photo however — NASA’s Juno spacecraft released images from a flyby over Jupiter’s great red spot, allowing for an even closer inspection of the raging red storm and clouds churning on the planet’s surface. And the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a color-enhanced shot of the planet’s fascinating surface.
Want even more dazzling sights from space? Check out the entire collection here.