What are the coolest pictures of space? The New Horizons Pluto flyby showed us our first close-up images of the demoted dwarf planet, and they're spectacular. But awesome pictures of space aren't new. From the first space pictures taken by craft that left the atmosphere to the thousands of pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, there are now countless images of galaxies, star clusters, quasars, and some of the most remote planets in the visible universe. In fact, the Hubble Space Telescope explores the universe all day, every day, meaning it likely captured something quite spectacular on your birthday, and NASA wants you to celebrate with Hubble.
But even pictures of our closest neighbors like the sun, moon, and planets in the Solar System have new surprises for us. Using sophisticated instruments, we can see different wavelengths of light, moons transiting across planets, and spectacular closeups of peaks and craters. Some of these photos of space are so beautiful, they don't even seem real. As new telescopes and software are introduced by NASA, however, our views of the universe will become even more spectacular - making these images seem quaint.
But until then, enjoy this planet photography - some of the most incredible and best space pictures taken of both our Solar System and the great vastness of the universe.
1. Eagle Nebula (Pillars of Creation)
2. V838 Monocerotis
3. Galaxy ARP 273Photo: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) / Hubble Space Telescope
4. MyCN18 (Engraved Hourglass Nebula)Photo: Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger (JPL), the WFPC2 science team, and NASA/ESA / Hubble Space Telescope
5. Jupiter's Aurora
6. M104 (Sombrero Galaxy)