Photograph courtesy NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
When the red supergiant V838 Monocerotis suddenly brightened for several weeks in early 2002, it showed it was cloaked in a never-before-seen cloud structure. The burst of light reflecting off the clouds, called a light echo, was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Photograph courtesy NASA
An infrared image reveals clouds of dust swaddling the stars of the Seven Sisters cluster, also known as the Pleiades. The cluster, located some 400 light-years away, formed about 100 million years ago. It contains thousands of stars but gets its name from seven of its brightest members.
Photograph courtesy NASA/ESA/Hans Van Winckel (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium)/Martin Cohen (University of California, Berkeley)
Ground-based telescopes make the nebula pictured here look rectangular in shape, hence its name: the Red Rectangle. But images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that it should more accurately be called the "Red X" nebula. The nebula's unique shape comes from gas and dust emitted in cone-shaped bursts from the dying star at its center. This star, which began shedding its outer layers about 14,000 years ago, will slowly become smaller and hotter and begin to release a flood of ultraviolet light.
Image courtesy NASA
An artist's rendering shows a neutron star—located 50,000 light-years from Earth—that flared up so brightly in December 2004 that it temporarily blinded all the x-ray satellites in space and lit up the Earth's upper atmosphere. The flare-up occurred when the star's massive, twisting magnetic field ripped open its crust, releasing an explosion of gamma rays.
Photograph courtesy NASA
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.
Remnants of a Supernova
Photograph courtesy NASA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
This Hubble Space Telescope image shows debris from the massive Cassiopeia A supernova arranged into thousands of small, cooling knots of gas. Each clump, originally just a small fragment of the star, is tens of times larger than the diameter of our solar system.
More Photos of the Universe
Explore More From Nat Geo
National Geographic Magazine
The space-weather forecast for the next few years: solar storms, with a chance of catastrophic blackouts on Earth. Are we prepared?
Archaeologists and artists, armed with the latest tools and techniques, are bringing the life-size army of painted clay soldiers back to life.
Each month, National Geographic magazine features breathtaking photographs in Visions of Earth. Browse through visions of the world as seen through a photographer's eye.
Shop Our Space Collection
The updated companion book to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, featuring a new forward by Neil deGrasse Tyson is now available. Proceeds support our mission programs, which protect species, habitats, and cultures.