NASA Goddard celebrates Cosmos

In the same theme as the Oscar's #RealGravity photoset, NASA Goddard has put together a gallery of eye-candy to celebrate today's Cosmos premiere. Is entertainment-inspired photo galleries curated by space agencies a thing now? I can handle that.

The reboot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos series with Neil deGrasse Tyson even has NASA Goddard excited. Over on Twitter, @nasagoddard and @nasagoddardpix are all set to live-tweet NASA images during Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey. Here's some of my favourites from the gallery of this week's orgy of astronomical beauty:

1. Enter the Vortex ... in Psychedelic Color


Cassini snapped this image of a hexagonal storm at Saturn's north pole. The colours map near-infrared wavelengths to visible colours, which for Saturn's atmosphere correlates to different altitudes. The dark red eye of the storm is low in the atmosphere, with low-lying clouds circling in muted orange. Climbing higher in altitude, a fast-moving jet-stream creates a hexagonal frame in yellowish-green. Above the surface storms, the rings stand out in vivid blue.

2. Pillars and Jets in the Carina Nebula

The top of this three light-year tall pillar of gas and dust is under attack from all sides. Inside, infant stars fire off arrow-like jets of gas pushing dust out of the pillar. Outside, light nearby bright stars buffet the pillar. The delicate structure is beautiful, awe-inspiring, and temporary. (update: According to the NASA tweet-along,it also contains the oldest known star.)

3. Black Hole Caught Red-Handed in a Stellar Homicide

We knew that black holes were messy eaters, but this computer-simulation teases out the beauty in the stellar homicide. Astronomers managed to observe a star as it was consumed by a black hole — high-speed jets, ultraviolet and optical flares, and shreds of glowing helium — and modelled those observations to reconstruct the gory-yet-gorgeous death.


4. Colossal Glow


As on Earth, Saturn's auroras form from the interaction of high-speed particles from the sun interacting with gas in the planet's atmosphere. The resulting florescence produce mesmerizing flashes of light. Unlike on Earth, on Saturn auroras climb hundreds of miles tall and last for days at a time. Hubble even captured simultaneous aurora at both poles in this movie recoloured from UV light.

6. Black Marble


The modern update of Sagan's pale blue dot is the Earth as a black marble: an overlay of dim lights from the nighttime Earth. In this particular image over Asia and Australia, wildfires and auroras have been removed to highlight the impact of city lights in mapping population density and distribution.

7. Ultraviolet Portrait of Andromeda Galaxy


Swift took a multi-band ultraviolet portrait of M31, the galaxy next door. The redder central bulge is full of older, cooler stars, while bright blue pinpricks dot the spiral arms, home to young, hot stars.

Cosmos premieres at 9:00 pm EDT/PDT on Fox, repeating with additional content Mondays at 10pm on National Geographic Channel. Follow along with the Goddard twitter feeds tonight for more astro-beauty with very short captions, or get a sneak peek at the full gallery on Flickr. The space-enthusiasts and actresses starting up @SciRens will also be live-tweeting. Don't want to hang out online while getting immersed in the beauty of the universe? Grab bingo-cards and gather up your friends to play. If you're in New York, you can even bring your completed card to an Astronomy on Tap event for a prize.


All images and titles credit NASA. Look them up in the gallery for more detailed captions, including links to the related press releases.

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