11 Deep Space Photos You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped
It's hard to overstate the excitement back in 1990 when the Hubble Space Telescope left Earth. Scientists had worked the public into a frenzy with this thing since the 1970s, promising that without the stupid atmosphere to hold it back, its vision would be so clear, you could peer right into the butthole of God. So we didn't have a problem when it blew past its $400 million budget and landed at $1.5 billion, because that first picture would be worth every penny. What we got was this piece of shit:
It was a problem with a mirror, and it was fixed with a simple three-year replacement project. Ever since then, Hubble has been showing us views of space that we couldn't replicate with the dorkiest of fantasy geek minds.
The Rose Galaxies
Known in the scientific community by its more poetic name of ARP 273, this is an image of two galaxies caught in a gravitational clusterfuck after the smaller one passed through the larger one. What we get is a tidal pull on the lower galaxy, stretching it out into a stemlike structure, its bulge forming the single-leaf look we all recognize from a trimmed rose. It's God's way of telling space, "Come on, baby, don't be like that. I didn't mean it. Look, I made you this flower out of galaxies. Don't look at me like that. Fine! Don't come running to me when a massive black hole starts tearing ass through space and sucking up all your shit!"
The Crab Nebula
This is the most detailed photo ever taken of the Crab Nebula, and if you think that one is awesome, wait until you see the badass original that you can download by clicking these words.
How detailed is it? Let's take the photo I just showed you and box off a tiny section in the upper right corner:
Now, let's view just that miniscule selection at the original image's full size:
Holy shit, it's like the dripping aftermath of Japanese porn. A cosmic jizzfest 66 trillion miles wide, all pointing toward the circle-jerk pivot man that's only about the size of Chicago. So why's it called "The Crab Nebula" instead of "Space Bukkake"? Because one of the guys responsible for documenting the nebula couldn't draw for shit, and his first sketch looked like a crab. The name just kind of stuck.
The Eagle Nebula
That gigantic cloud of gas looks like a huge dragon jumping up to take flight off of the peak of a mountain. Or if you're not very imaginative, beer shit. But imagination aside, it's actually one huge spire of dust and gas rising off of the Eagle Nebula, and it's commonly thought to be a stellar nursery. If you're like me, the first time you hear that and then see the picture, you'll think, "Wait, that thing is big enough to make a star?" Then you'll call yourself stupid and punch your own genitals until you black out.
But yes, at 9.5 light-years tall (twice the distance from us to our nearest star), it's big enough to make stars, and you see those itty bitty tendrils of gas coming off of the center tail area?
Those are as big as our entire solar system.
A Star in Midexplosion
If you asked me what makes those beautiful, intricate nebulae, I'd tell you to start paying attention in science class. They teach you this stuff in like the fifth grade, and it's some of the coolest shit you'll ever learn. But if you have to find out from a comedy website, they're made when a star can't burn any more of its core fuel, so it explodes, spraying shit out like a college freshman after his first losing game of beer pong.
The Westbrook Nebula is a star in the protoplanetary nebula phase, and it's actually a pretty rare phenomenon to catch on camera, because in the grand scheme of things, they don't last that long. What a lot of people don't realize is that when a star dies, it doesn't explode all at once. It fires off a couple of warning shots first before it finally bites the big one. That's what this star is doing. Standing on its porch with a shotgun, firing off rounds into the air and screaming, "Get off my land!"
A Star on the Verge of Supernova
This is the Homunculus Nebula, and just like the last one, it's spewing out gas like a mofo. What's different about this one is that it's right on the edge of going supernova. What's even cooler is that when it happens, it will be the closest one to Earth we've ever witnessed -- if we're still alive when that happens. See, the problem is that these things are so unpredictable, it could blow up as you're reading this article, or a million years from now when civilizations on another planet are worshiping Cracked writings as religious texts.
The Red Rectangle
This is the Red Rectangle Nebula, and not "Kind of a Purplish, Freaky X-Files Logo Looking Thing," because early telescopes were looking at it through our atmosphere, which distorted the image into this:
Ha! What a bunch of loser pieces of shit people from the past are.
It's another protoplanetary nebula, and if you haven't figured it out by now, those are as cool as a cucumber fuck. Though they're not quite sure exactly how it gets its shape, the common theory is that it's refracted light, shining through a dense cloud of surrounding gas. Personally, I like to think of the universe as an enormous game show, and the red X is just telling us that we're wrong.
An Invisible Galaxy Destroyer
So what's up with this freak galaxy with the Don King hair? Is it trying to steam cook enormous broccoli? Actually, it's a victim of ram pressure stripping -- a force associated with rapid motion that can suck all of the gas out of a galaxy. This particular one, named NGC 4522 (obviously), is one of the most clear examples of the phenomenon. It's a part of a group of galaxies called the Virgo Cluster that contains between 1,300 and 2,000 galaxies. As it zips through space at over 6 million miles per hour like a fucking crazy-ass, it slams into slower-moving molecular gas, which rips out its own.
It gets no sympathy from me. There are younger galaxies in that neighborhood who are trying to play. They don't need some hot rod asshole endangering their lives.
This is one of the coolest things about space. As long as it stays a safe 500 million light-years from us, like this one was kind enough to do. The blue galaxy on the right just got its ass Bill Goldberg speared right in its goddamn gut. Notice the shock wave that blows out of its center, followed by the loose stars being sucked away. It makes the whole thing look like a space jellyfish.
Oh, but don't think this is as awesome as it gets, because ...
The Cartwheel Galaxy
BAM! Oh, man, suck it! You just got galaxy slapped!
That looks like two galaxies right at the exact point of impact, doesn't it? But actually that entire structure on the right is a single entity called the Cartwheel Galaxy. About 200 million years ago (from our perspective), another galaxy collided head-on with it, sending out that blue shock wave of stars and dust. Since then, the ball-busting gravity at the center has steadily been trying to put things back together again, and if you look closely, you can see the strings of material trying to reform its spiral structure.
Big Red Bubble, Just Floating in Space
This is SNR B0509-67.5. OK, Science, seriously, fuck you for not giving that a badass name. It's a gigantic red bubble floating through space like a video game power-up. You know as well as I do that if we fly a ship through that, we're getting a scattershot upgrade out of the deal.
If you've been paying attention to the explanations so far, you know that's the remnants of a supernova. What's crazy is that this one is 23 light-years across and expanding at 11 million miles per hour. So sorry, guys. If we flew up to that thing and tried to pop it, it would bitch slap our asses inside out.
Hubble Ultra Deep Field
It doesn't look like much, does it? Just a boring collection of dots and smudges like the ones you've seen in every science book you've ever picked up. But there's a reason why this one is special, and if you don't have a bandwidth cap with your Internet provider, it would help you understand the magnitude and importance if you got the original 110 MB file.
See, back in 2004, scientists decided to point Hubble at a patch of sky that was pure black. No stars. No galaxies. Just black. They left the lens open for a little over 11 days to capture as much light as possible, because the more light a telescope captures, the clearer the image is. What we got was that image above ... only 6,200 pixels wide and just as tall. In other words ...
All of that, extracted from a pinpoint patch of empty, black sky. Every dot in that photo is a galaxy. Ten thousand of them. Every one of them previously unknown to us. Every one of them containing the possibility of having intelligent life for us to show up and dance battle before giving them the finger and flying away, knowing we truly are the masters of this universe.
John has a Twitter where he occasionally starts cults, just to see who would go through with the stupid haircut.