Astrophotographer John Chumack was killing time while waiting for Comet ISON (a potentially spectacular comet making its closest approach to the sun in November and December) to rise when he captured this beautiful image of the Orion Nebula, M42 (NGC 1976) along with neighbor, De Mairan's Nebula M43.
Hubble is reprising one of its greatest hits. Twenty years after the release of its iconic image of the Eagle nebula's "Pillars of Creation", the space telescope – which turns 25 this year – has captured two new, even sharper views that peer through the pillars' shrouds of dust.
The original image, taken in 1995 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, revealed three towering "elephant trunks" of gas and dust that are in the process of forming new stars. The columns are also being sculpted and eroded by winds from nearby young star.
A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood.