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20 Breathtaking Pictures Of The Cosmos

On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space telescope was launched into low Earth orbit to reveal the universe as we've never seen before.

Posted on April 24, 2017, at 5:31 p.m. ET

To mark the 27th anniversary of NASA's launching of the Hubble Space Telescope, BuzzFeed News brought together a collection of some of the most mesmerizing and significant images made by the world's largest space telescope in orbit.

Pillars of Creation, also known as M16, Eagle Nebula, and NGC 6611:


The towering pillars are about five light-years tall and are made of cold hydrogen gas laced with dust. Stars are being born deep inside the pillars, and streams of gas bleed off as the intense radiation heats and evaporates the gas into space. The pillars are part of a small region of the Eagle Nebula, a vast star-forming region 6,500 light-years from Earth.

The Tarantula Nebula, also known as 30 Doradus:


Astronomers using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope caught two clusters full of massive stars — called the 30 Doradus Nebula, which is 170,000 light-years from Earth — that may be in the early stages of merging. The two clusters differ in age by about 1 million years.

Merging galaxy cluster Abell 520:


This composite image shows the distribution of dark matter, galaxies, and hot gas in the core of the merging galaxy cluster Abell 520. The natural-color image of the galaxies was taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii. Superimposed on the image are "false-colored" maps showing the concentration of starlight, hot gas, and dark matter in the cluster.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) storm:


Hubble was monitoring changes in Jupiter’s immense GRS storm on April 21, 2014, when the shadow of the Jovian moon, Ganymede, swept across the center of the storm. This gave the giant planet the uncanny appearance of having a pupil in the center of a 10,000-mile-diameter “eye.” For a moment, Jupiter “stared” back at Hubble like a giant Cyclops.

Horsehead Nebula, also known as Barnard 33:


The Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books since its discovery more than a century ago. The nebula is a favorite target for amateur and professional astronomers. It appears transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths — its rich tapestry pops out against the backdrop of Milky Way stars

The Ring Nebula, also known as Messier 57:


In this composite image, visible-light observations by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are combined with infrared data from the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona to assemble a dramatic view of the Ring Nebula, a glowing gas shroud around an old, dying, sunlike star. The nebula's distinctive shape makes it a popular illustration for astronomy books.

The Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372:


The image captures the top of a pillar, which is three light-years tall, that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar, made of gas and dust, is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks.

Planetary nebula NGC 5189:


Planetary nebulae represent the final stage in the life of a medium-size star like our sun. While consuming the last of the fuel in its core, the dying star expels a large portion of its outer envelope, which becomes heated by the radiation and produces glowing clouds of gas that reveal complex structures.

Ultra-compact dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1:


M60-UCD1 is located near the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 4649, also called M60, about 54 million light-years from Earth. This composite image shows M60 and the region around it, where data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are pink and data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are red, green, and blue. The Chandra image shows hot gas and double stars containing black holes and neutron stars, and the Hubble image reveals stars in M60 and neighboring galaxies including M60-UCD1.

The Hercules A galaxy and its supermassive black hole:


Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A were captured by two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.

Supergiant Star V838 Monocerotis:

Dubbed "Light Echo" by NASA scientists, this picture depicts the supergiant star V838 Monocerotis illuminating dust against a velvety black expanse of space.

Protostar IRAS 20324+4057, also known as the "cosmic caterpillar":


The caterpillar-shaped knot, called IRAS 20324+4057, is a protostar in a very early evolutionary stage. It is still in the process of collecting material from an envelope of gas surrounding it. However, that envelope is being eroded by the radiation from Cygnus OB2. Protostars in this region should eventually become young stars with final masses about 1 to 10 times that of our sun.

Antennae galaxies, also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039:


The Antennae galaxies — also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 — are locked in a deadly embrace. Once normal, sedate spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, the pair have spent the past few hundred million years sparring with each other. This clash is so violent that stars have been ripped from their host galaxies to form a streaming arc between the two. The rate of star formation is so high that the Antennae galaxies are said to be in a state of starburst, a period in which all of the gas within the galaxies is being used to form stars. This cannot last forever and neither can the separate galaxies; eventually the nuclei will coalesce, and the galaxies will begin their retirement together as one large elliptical galaxy.

Galaxy cluster Abell 1689:

In this picture, Abell 1689 is seen overlaid with the mass distribution of normal (baryonic) and dark matter. Distorted galaxies are clearly visible around the edges of the gravitational lens. The appearance of these distorted galaxies depends on the distribution of matter in the lens and on the relative geometry of the lens and the distant galaxies, as well as on the effect of dark energy on the geometry of the universe.

Spiral galaxy M106:


Working with astronomical image processors at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, renowned astro-photographer Robert Gendler has taken science data from the Hubble Space Telescope archive and combined it with his own ground-based observations to assemble this photo illustration of the magnificent spiral galaxy M106.

The Bubble Nebula, also known as NGC 7635:


The Bubble Nebula was discovered in 1787 by William Herschel, a prominent British astronomer. It is being formed by a prototypical Wolf-Rayet star, BD +60º2522, an extremely bright, massive, and short-lived star that has lost most of its outer hydrogen and is now fusing helium into heavier elements. The star is about 4 million years old, and in 10 million to 20 million years, it will likely detonate as a supernova.

Hubble’s cross-section of the cosmos:


This Hubble image showcases a remarkable variety of objects at different distances from us, extending halfway to the edge of the observable universe. The galaxies in this image mostly lie about 5 billion light-years from Earth, but the field also contains other objects, both significantly closer and far more distant.

The Crab Nebula, also known as M1:


The Crab Nebula is a supernova remnant, all that remains of a tremendous stellar explosion. Observers in China and Japan recorded the supernova nearly 1,000 years ago, in 1054.

Planetary Nebula NGC 6302:


What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The gas is tearing across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour — fast enough to travel from Earth to the moon in 24 minutes.

Spiral galaxy UGC 1810 and its companion galaxy UGC 1813:

The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is distorted into a roselike shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. This image is a composite of Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 data taken on Dec. 17, 2010, with three separate filters that allow a broad range of wavelengths covering the ultraviolet, blue, and red portions of the spectrum.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.