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An artist's impression of a white dwarf in an extremely close orbit around what's believed to be a black hole. The star is so close that much of its material is being pulled away. X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Alberta/A.Bahramian et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss hide caption

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X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Alberta/A.Bahramian et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Proxima Centauri lies in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), just over four light-years from Earth. Although it looks bright through the eye of Hubble, Proxima Centauri is not visible to the naked eye. ESA/Hubble & NASA hide caption

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ESA/Hubble & NASA

This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the central region of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The R136 star cluster — the blue stars in the lower right — contains massive stars, including nine newly-identified stars more than 100 times as massive as our sun. NASA, ESA, P Crowther (University of Sheffield) hide caption

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NASA, ESA, P Crowther (University of Sheffield)

The Horsehead Nebula, as seen with infrared light, shows clouds surrounding it have already dissipated. The Horsehead formation has about 5 million years left before it, too, disintegrates. NASA/ESA hide caption

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NASA/ESA

25 Years On: How Hubble's Vision Became Our Own

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2011: In the early 21st century, attempts to visualize such complex ephemeral phenomena as ocean currents, wind direction, and speed grew increasingly sophisticated, as the volume of real-time data increased and supercomputers proved capable of processing it. This ocean surface current visualization was produced by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Greg Shirah, Horace Mitchell, Hong Zhang and Dimitris Menemenlis/Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio hide caption

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Greg Shirah, Horace Mitchell, Hong Zhang and Dimitris Menemenlis/Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Step back in time: This is what 100 million years ago looked like, in a galaxy far, far away. ESO hide caption

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ESO

The Christmas Now: How To Be The Center Of The Universe

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Part of the ALMA array on the Chajnantor plateau of Chile points skyward to the Milky Way, our own galaxy. The center of our galaxy is visible as a yellowish bulge crossed by dark lanes, which are themselves huge clouds of interstellar dust. José Francisco Salgado/ESO hide caption

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José Francisco Salgado/ESO

The Milky Way fills the night sky over Chile's Cerro Paranal, home to the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT). Y.Beletsky/ESO hide caption

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Y.Beletsky/ESO