Science Images and Illustrations

Gas cloud and black hole

A series of images showing the evolution of a 10000 solar mass molecular cloud falling toward a supermassive black hole. Although the cloud is disrupted by the black hole, some of the material is captured to form an eccentric disc that quickly forms numerous stars. The stars that form retain the eccentricity of the captured gas and those that form very close to the black hole tend to be very massive.

Galaxy clusters

A powerful collision of galaxy clusters as captured with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope.
Credit: NASA.

Galaxy cluster

An infrared image of the cluster XMMU J2235.3-2557 taken with Subaru, seen at a distance corresponding to 65% of the way back to the Big Bang. The image shows the central 1.5 x 1.5 arc min of the cluster corresponding to 0.75 Mpc at this distance. The clusters X-ray emission is used to pinpoint the location of the brightest galaxy in the cluster as shown by the green contours which represent the X-ray intensity as measured by the XMM-Newton X-ray satellite.


SPIRE images of M74 at three different wavelengths (equivalent to three different colours).

These images are scaled to show up the extended nature of the galaxies and the rich detail in the background sky. The image quality is best at 250 microns because telescopes produce sharper images at their shortest wavelengths. By combining the three images, astronomers can measure the properties of the emitting dust and identify the nature of the many distant galaxies.

Our galaxy

Five-colour composite image of a 2 x 2 degree area in the plane of our Galaxy, combining the PACS and SPIRE observations (Credit: ESA)

In this image the SPIRE and PACS images have been combined into a single composite; here the blue denotes 70 microns, the green 160 microns, and the red is the combination of the emission from all three SPIRE bands at 250/350/500 microns.

SCUBA Hubble Deep Field

SCUBA image of the Hubble Deep Field.


A globular cluster about 9,000 light years from Earth in the constellation of Aquila taken as part of the UKIDSS DR1 release.

Flame Nebula

This image from VISTA, the world’s largest survey telescope, shows the spectacular star-forming region known as the Flame Nebula, or NGC 2024, in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter) and its surroundings. In views of this evocative object in visible light the core of the nebula is completely hidden behind obscuring dust, but in this VISTA view, taken in infrared light, the cluster of very young stars at the object’s heart is revealed. The wide-field VISTA view also includes the glow of the reflection nebula NGC 2023, just below centre, and the ghostly outline of the Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) towards the lower right. The bright bluish star towards the right is one of the three bright stars forming the Belt of Orion. The image was created from VISTA images taken through J, H and Ks filters in the near-infrared part of the spectrum. The image shows about half the area of the full VISTA field and is about 40 x 50 arcminutes in extent. The total exposure time was 14 minutes.

Part of Orion's Belt

This spectacular VISTA wide-field view of part of the famous belt of the great celestial hunter Orion shows the region of the sky around the Flame Nebula. The whole image is filled with glowing gas clouds illuminated by hot blue young stars. It was created from photographs in red and blue light forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The field of view is approximately three degrees.

Artist's impression of a collision of galaxies.

Artist's impression of galaxies in colision.

High z galaxy

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field showing the location of a potentially very distant galaxy (marked by crosshairs).
Credit: Ross McLure (Edinburgh)