5 Cosmic Phenomena That Will Beat the Starry Hell out of Your 4th of July Fireworks

Tuesday, 03 July 2018 - 1:55PM
Space
Astronomy
Space Imagery
Tuesday, 03 July 2018 - 1:55PM
5 Cosmic Phenomena That Will Beat the Starry Hell out of Your 4th of July Fireworks
< >
Image Credit: NASA/Public Domain
With the Fourth of July just one day away, we thought it'd be fun to put all those M-80s and sparklers into perspective by showing you what a real fireworks display looks like. Below, you'll find some of the most breathtaking photos of cosmic lights shows that NASA has to offer, each one several orders of magnitude bigger than anything happening here on Earth.

1. The Ant Nebula



The Ant Nebula is the product of a star collapsing into a white dwarf, along with a companion star that shapes the gas around it. Apart from being spectacularly beautiful, the Ant Nebula is also the source of an incredibly powerful infrared laser that was recently spotted by astronomers. Here's how NASA describes the nebula:

"The Ant Nebula, whose technical name is Mz3, resembles the head and thorax of an ant when observed with ground-based telescopes. The new Hubble image, with 10 times the resolution revealing 100 times more detail, shows the "ant's" body as a pair of fiery lobes protruding from a dying, Sun-like star."

2. A Quasar Surrounded by Water Vapor



Quasars (a contraction of "Quasi-Stellar Radio Sources") are the most distant objects ever spotted by telescopes and the brightest objects in the universe—even brighter than their host galaxies. Though they're only visible through radio telescopes, that hasn't stopped artists from creating depictions of what one might look like to the naked eye (including this one). According to NASA:

"This artist's concept illustrates a quasar, or feeding black hole, similar to APM 08279+5255, where astronomers discovered huge amounts of water vapor. Gas and dust likely form a torus around the central black hole, with clouds of charged gas above and below. X-rays emerge from the very central region, while thermal infrared radiation is emitted by dust throughout most of the torus."

3. The Oldest Recorded Supernova



If you want to talk about fireworks, supernovas are hands-down the biggest explosions in space. Apart from being blindingly bright and incredibly destructive, their aftermath is where they're transformed into something truly stunning. The above photo is a composite image of an ancient supernova, which is 8,000 light-years away and 85 light-years across. According to NASA:

"This image combines data from four space telescopes to create a multi-wavelength view of all that remains of RCW 86, the oldest documented example of a supernova. Chinese astronomers witnessed the event in 185 A.D., documenting a mysterious "guest star" that remained in the sky for eight months."

4. A Galaxy Cluster



Seeing a photo like this is both a terrifying reminder of how small and insignificant we are and how magnificently vast and colorful the universe really is. What's especially amusing is the fact the spiral galaxies in the picture look like traditional pinwheel fireworks. If you're wondering what makes each galaxy a different color and shape, here's the explanation by NASA:

"Photographed in a combination of visible and near-infrared light, the immense cluster is a rich mix of a variety of galaxy shapes. The brightest and largest galaxies in the cluster are the yellow-white, massive, elliptical galaxies containing many hundreds of billions of stars each. Spiral galaxies - like our Milky Way - have younger populations of stars and are bluish."

5. The Perseid Meteor Shower



Above is a time-lapse photo of the Perseid Meteor Shower, one of the biggest annual events for stargazers and astronomers. What you might not know is where all these specks of stardust come from—one comet's debris trail:

"Every Perseid meteor is a tiny piece of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun every 133 years. Each swing through the inner solar system can leave trillions of small particles in its wake. When Earth crosses paths with Swift-Tuttle's debris, specks of comet-stuff hit Earth's atmosphere and disintegrate in flashes of light. These meteors are called Perseids because they seem to fly out of the constellation Perseus."
Science
Science News
Space
Astronomy
Space Imagery
No