12 Pictures of Space You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped

#6. The Great Saturnian Rave

Hyper Physics

It shouldn't be too surprising that Saturn, the most fashionable hussy in the solar system, likes to turn the cosmic ballet into a glow stick rave when no one is looking. We mean, just look at the way it dresses.

NASA Earth Observatory
Hussy.

It's the Lady Gaga of outer space. However, Saturn's rings just scratch the surface of its bizarre, gaudy fashion sense: For example, here's what auroras look like on Saturn:

NASA

Either somebody's casting a magic spell down there, or the new Tron sequel has some pretty epic fight scenes planned. But Saturn's not the most hard-partying, balls-trippingest planet in the solar system. Naw, baby, that's all Earth ...

#5. Earth's Auroras from Space

MSNBC

What the hell is that? Did we actually capture evidence of the human soul ... in orbit? Is this a screencap from Back to the Future 4: Escape Velocity? Or did somebody just shut down the containment system, because this shit looks like it's straight out of Ghostbusters.

NASA

That's just what the aurora borealis looks like from space. Turns out the earthbound view that we see so many awe-inspiring pictures of is actually like looking at the sunset through a fish tank. It's only once you get above all that pesky air and atmosphere that you really clear that view up, and you get to see the real light show.


It's like a giant floating Save Point for astronauts.

#4. Earth's Abstract Artwork

Goddard Earth Sciences Data, NASA

Saturn isn't the only one whose planetary grill Earth is gettin' all up into: Not to be shown up by Mars, we've got our own modern art gallery going on down here, too. What you're looking at above is actually part of the Sahara Desert, the Tanezrouft Basin, as viewed from space. It's known in Southern Algeria as the "Land of Terror," ostensibly because it's so desolate.

But man, just look at it: We suspect that whoever named it kind of knew that someday we'd get far enough up to realize that it looks like somebody melted a bunch of crayons on the Predator's face.

#3. "That's No Moon ..."

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

If you have a really bad feeling about this, don't worry. That thing ain't operational.

You're looking at Saturn's moon Mimas, whose enormous crater Herschel makes it a dead ringer for a defunct, rusted over Death Star. Now, we know what you're thinking: This is where George Lucas got the inspiration, right?


Can we agree, as a species, to find a way to blow this thing up for the 100th anniversary of Star Wars?

Not in this timeline: The Mimantean crater wasn't even discovered until 1980, we're guessing because all the other probes got shot down for flying too close to the moon's solar terminator.

Seriously, "solar terminator" is a real scientific term. Because apparently Science has the same naming conventions as our seventh grade hypothetical death metal band.

#2. The Most Action-Packed Nebula

That's the Calabash Nebula, also known as "The Rotten Egg Nebula," so named because it would smell like one (if you managed to get a whiff before dying in the horrible vacuum of space, that is). It's just chock-full of sulfur. However, that's another example of jaded astronomers focusing on the novelty of the wrong thing. See, we'd call it the Bullet Smashing Apple Nebula, on account of how it looks surprisingly like this:

Smithsonian American Art Museum

And that's not a coincidence. When you look at pictures of Calabash, what you're actually seeing is the death of a nebula via gunshot wound. The "gun," in this case, was fired from inside of the nebula itself, when the central star started dying and violently threw off material in opposite directions. The yellow parts of the image are those space bullets, flying away at a million miles per hour.

Don't worry, though; space isn't all terror and violence. All things happen for a reason, because ...

#1. God Is Watching

NASA

This is the Helix Nebula, often referred to as the eye of God. It was produced by a sunlike star dying over a span of thousands of years. Think we're stretching to see the "eye" there? OK, then try this:


MY. GAZE. DEVOURS.

The above photograph of the Engraved Hourglass Nebula makes us wonder two things:

One, is there a little space-hobbit out there trudging dutifully across the Cosmo-Shire to destroy this damn thing?

And two, who the hell is in charge of naming stuff at NASA? Maybe they had to go with "Engraved Hourglass" because something more accurate like "The All-Seeing Eye of Terror" would have caused a global panic, resulting in panicky idiots like us pitchforking the Hubble Telescope to stop this ocular witchcraft.

Special thanks to Kier Harris for suggesting several of these.

Jacopo della Quercia is on Twitter. Follow him!

For more insane photos that are too crazy to be real (but totally are), check out 6 Images of Abandoned Weaponry You Won't Believe Are Real and 17 More Images You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped.

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