12 Pictures of Space You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped
Look, we all know that space is the final frontier, that space is cold and unforgiving and that in it, nobody can hear you scream. But what you might not know is that, when it thinks nobody is looking, space puts on a frilly dress, covers its forearms in honey and spins around until it falls over ... because space is just flat-out crazy as hell. Oh, don't take our word for it or anything; we have photographic evidence.
Jupiter in Motion
You know what Jupiter looks like -- kind of like a dirty marble -- and you know, objectively, that those bands and swirls you're looking at are all big storms. But it's one thing to know something like that, and another to see it in action. Here's a gif of what Jupiter's storms actually look like in motion.
IT'S GETTING CLOSER!
You might have seen this before in the movie Another Earth, but if not, well, now you have this time-lapse gif to haunt your existential nightmares for the rest of time. The way those bands all churn at separate speeds and writhe around on the surface in every direction at once -- Jupiter looks less like a serene gas giant and more like a behemoth, roiling mass of space tentacles. And if our totally reasonable and scientific predictions pan out, and Jupiter does indeed turn out to be the egg of Space Cthulhu, we know exactly where it was laid ...
The Bottomless Pit on the Sun
What looks like a terrifying cavern in the middle of a Minecraft lava lake is actually a closeup of a sunspot taken from the New Jersey Institute of Technology's Big Bear Solar Observatory. We would've guessed all sorts of things from this image -- a retinal image from Sauron's annual eye exam, an extreme closeup of some kind of skin infection, a freshly violated orange -- but never the sun. Since when is the friggin' sun black? Well, probably since around the same time that ...
Mars Grew a Bunch of Faces
Remember that famous face on Mars that turned out to be a big, fat nothing?
Or that "happy face crater" from Watchmen?
By God, that was one hell of an ARG.
Well, they ain't got jack in comparison to the masterworks of Mars' more gifted Renaissance sculptor: Libya Montes, most famous for her "crowned face" of Mars.
Is that ... Prince?
Why have we never seen this before? That visage is way more compelling than the crude scrawl of the happy face or the expressionless mask of Martian Andre the Giant up there. You can actually make out details on this one: Those full lips, big, round eyes, perky little nose -- hell, we don't just see a face there; we can actually make out enough detail to definitively state whether or not we'd bone the model who sat for it.
(We would, obviously.)
But hold on to your space-monocles, ladies and gentlemen, because Mars gets way, way crazier from here ...
Mars Is a Dali Fan
What is that? Kelp beneath the ocean? Black food coloring dropped in a glass of rose? A bitchin' new screensaver for the iPad? Nope, that's Mars. Those are "intersecting swirling trails" left by dust devils racing across the sand dunes. The dark streaks, however, are another matter ...
The first people to day-trip on Mars are in for a treat.
That looks like a surrealist's impression of a dozen mascara-laced eyes dribbling tears down their giant eyelashes. Or maybe it's an aerial shot of oases in an oversaturated desert. Or no, maybe it's just Mars being weird again: What you are looking at are actually "dark streaks of collapsed material running down sand dunes due to carbon dioxide frost evaporation."
Or hey, maybe for once your eyes aren't lying to you, and it's just the billion-eyed Lady of the Red Planet having a good eon-long cry. But why would she be crying? Well, maybe it's because Mars just misses you so damn much ...
Hearts of Mars
Don't buy into any of that "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" crap. Mars has remembered Valentine's Day every year for the last several millennia, while Venus not only leaves the toilet seat up, it also rains fiery acid every damn day.
OK, OK, clearly we're overreacting to some very basic shapes formed by meteor strikes and such. But you know what we're not overreacting to? The goddamn Bigfoot sightings.
H-Harry Henderson? This picture snapped by NASA appears to be the first official Bigfoot sighting on Mars. The mysterious figure in question can be seen in the bottom left of this image, just behind the piles of rocks.
No, next to the other rocks. The piles.
There you have it. That's why all those Bigfoot hunters were having such a hard time: The hairy lil' dude up and joined the space program. Of course, smart people point out all sorts of reasons why that's a very, very stupid thing to think (the phrase "Bigfoot on Mars" should've maybe been the first clue), but we're terminally dumb and panicky over here, and are therefore already preparing for the arrival of our Simian Martian Overlords.
We made cake. It didn't turn out very good, but we're hoping the thought counts enough to keep us out of those hellish Martian Banana Camps.
The Great Saturnian Rave
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.
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:
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 ...
Earth's Auroras from Space
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.
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.
Earth's Abstract Artwork
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.
"That's No Moon ..."
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?
Seriously, "solar terminator" is a real scientific term. Because apparently Science has the same naming conventions as our seventh grade hypothetical death metal band.
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:
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 ...
God Is Watching
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.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Why The Flintstones Takes Place in a Post-Apocalyptic Future
And stop by LinkSTORM to see why no one believes anything posted on the Internet.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infographic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!