Dazzling distant galaxies

An artistic sampling of some far-away worlds.

This artist rendering released Monday Jan. 7,2013 by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows the different types of planets in our Milky Way galaxy detected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. A new analysis of Kepler data found there are at least 17 billion planets the size of Earth. (AP Photo/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Alien Hairspray May Help Us Find E.T.

An artist’s impression of the Tau Boötis system. Astronomers are working to detect atmospheres of exoplanets.

In this image provided by NASA and taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows previously unseen early galaxies including the oldest one at 13.3 billion years old. Launched in 1990, Hubble has peered deep in time to reveal distant and old galaxies. (AP Photo/NASA)

Early Galaxies and Black Holes Grew Up Together

Artist's impression of a distant active galaxy firing off jets of powerful radiation.

Monster Black Hole Is Biggest Ever Found

This image shows the disk galaxy NGC 1277, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. The small, flattened galaxy has one of the biggest central super-massive black holes ever found in its center, the equivalent of 17 billion suns.

Potentially Habitable Planet Detected Around Nearby Star

Artist's impression of five possible planets orbiting the star Tau Ceti, which is just 11.9 light-years from Earth.

Amazing Photo Captures 84 Million Stars in Our Milky Way Galaxy

This very wide-field view of the Milky Way shows the extent of the 84-million-star VISTA infrared image of the center of the galaxy (delineated by red rectangle).

New Dark Energy Telescope Snaps First Cosmic Photos

This photo from the new Dark Energy Camera, taken in September 2012, shows the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365, in the Fornax cluster of galaxies, which lies about 60 million light years from Earth.

Hubble Telescope Reveals Farthest View Into Universe Ever

Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is a small fraction of the an

Two Alien Planets Found with Twin Suns Like 'Star Wars'' Tatooine

An artist's illustration of the alien solar system Kepler-47, a twin star system that is home to two planets. The planets have two suns like the fictional planet Tatooine in the "Star Wars" universe.

Giant Dying Star Caught Devouring Alien Planet

This artist's impression shows a red giant engulfing a Jupiter-like planet as it expands.

Stars

This artist's impression shows two active stars — M4-type red dwarfs — that orbit each other every 2.5 hours, as they continue to spiral inwards. Eventually they will coalesce into a single star.

Distant planets

1st Photos from New Discovery Channel Telescope Unveiled

One of the first images captured by the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona shows the barred spiral galaxy M109. The privately funded observatory took its first photos in May 2012.

Distant planets

An artist's illustration of Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star, is seen in this undated handout picture released by NASA, December 5, 2011. Kepler-22b, the most Earth-like planet ever discovered is circling a star 600 light years away, a key finding in an ongoing quest to learn if life exists beyond Earth, scientists said on Monday. Kepler-22b joins a list of more than 500 planets found to orbit stars beyond our solar system. It is the smallest and the best positioned to have liquid water on its surface - among the ingredients necessary for life on Earth. REUTERS/NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech/Handout

Distant planets

An artist rendering illustrates the newly discovered world (HAT-P-1) that has baffled astronomers, since the planet is much larger than theory predicts, scientists said September 14, 2006. HAT-P-1 has a radius about 1.38 times Jupiter's but contains only half Jupiter's mass. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/David A. Aguilar (CfA)/Handout

Oldest Spiral Galaxy in Universe Discovered

An artist’s rendering of galaxy BX442, which is 10.7 billion light-years from Earth, and its companion dwarf galaxy (upper left).

Distant planets

An artist's impression shows a unique type of exoplanet discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope. The planet is so close it to its star that it completes an orbit in 10.5 hours. The planet is only 750,000 miles from the star, or 1/130th the distance between Earth and the Sun. The Jupiter-sized planet orbits an unnamed red dwarf star that lies in the direction of the Galactic Centre; the exact stellar distance is unknown. REUTERS/NASA/ESA/A. Schaller/Handout

Distant planets

Scientists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope observed a fledgling solar system like the one depicted in this artist's concept, finding deep within it enough water vapor to fill all the oceans on Earth five times. The scientists peered at an embryonic star called IRAS 4B located in our Milky Way galaxy about 1,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Perseus. A light year is about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km), the distance light travels in a year. They believe they are seeing for the first time how water, considered a necessary ingredient for life, begins to make its way to newly forming planets. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout

Distant planets

An artist's impression shows a Jupiter-sized planet passing in front of its parent star. Such events are called transits. When the planet transits the star, the star's apparent brightness drops by a few percent for a short period. Through this technique, astronomers can use the Hubble Space Telescope to search for planets across the galaxy by measuring periodic changes in a star's luminosity. The first class of exoplanets found by this technique are the so-called "hot Jupiters," which are so close to their stars they complete an orbit within days, or even hours. REUTERS/NASA/ESA/G. Bacon/Handout

Distant planets

NASA handout image shows an artist's concept of the planet Kepler-16b with its two stars. The cold planet, with its gaseous surface, is not thought to be habitable. The largest of the two stars, a K dwarf, is about 69 percent the mass of our sun, and the smallest, a red dwarf, is about 20 percent the sun's mass. These star pairs are called eclipsing binaries. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt/Handout

Distant planets

Astronomers searching the skies for distant planets have detected two Saturn-sized worlds orbiting distant suns, the smallest planets found thus far outside our solar system. The discovery boosted the likelihood that even smaller planets - perhaps the size of Earth - exist elsewhere in the universe, Professor Steve Vogt of the University of California-Santa Cruz said. This artists concept shows a view of the discovered planet orbiting 79 Ceti. Reuters

Distant planets

NASA handout image shows an artist's concept of the circumbinary planet Kepler-16b - the first planet known to definitively orbit two stars. The cold planet, with its gaseous surface, is not thought to be habitable. The largest of the two stars, a K dwarf, is about 69 percent the mass of our sun, and the smallest, a red dwarf, is about 20 percent the sun's mass. These star pairs are called eclipsing binaries. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle/Handout

Distant planets

NASA handout image of an artist's concept illustrating an icy planet-forming disk around a young star called TW Hydrae, located about 175 light-years away in the Hydra, or Sea Serpent, constellation. Astronomers using the Herschel Space Observatory detected copious amounts of cool water vapor, illustrated in blue, emanating from the star's planet-forming disk of dust and gas. The water vapor, which probably comes from icy grains in the disk, is located in the frigid outer regions of the star system, where comets will take shape. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout

Distant planets

A newly discovered planet, designated by the unglamorous identifier of OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, orbits a red star five times less massive than the Sun and located at a distance of about 20,000 light years, in this undated artist's impression. A new planet-hunting technique has detected the most Earth-like planet yet around a star other than our sun, raising hopes of finding a space rock that might support life, astronomers reported on January 25, 2006. REUTERS/ESO/Handout

Distant planets

A handout photo from the European Space Agency released December 10, 2008 shows an artist's impression of the Jupiter-size extrasolar planet, HD 189733b, being eclipsed by its parent star. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the planet's atmosphere. The planet is a ?hot Jupiter?, so close to its parent star that it completes an orbit in only 2.2 days. This type of observation is best carried out when the planet's orbit takes it behind the star (as seen from Earth), allowing for an opportunity to subtract the light of the star alone (when the planet is hidden behind it) from that of the star and planet together before an eclipse. This allows astronomers to isolate the infrared emission of the planet and carry out spectroscopic observations that chemically analyse the dayside atmosphere. REUTERS/ESA/NASA/M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)/STScI.

Distant planets

Handout picture released June 14, 2005 shows an artist's conception of a newly discovered planet being shown as a hot, rocky, geologically active world glowing in the deep red light of its nearby parent star, the M dwarf Gliese 876. The heat and the reddish light are among the few things about the new planet that are certain, depending on the thickness and composition of its atmosphere - if any - it could range from being a barren, cratered ball of rock like Mercury or the Moon, to being a featureless, cloud-shrouded cue-ball like Venus. REUTERS/Trent Schindler/National Science Foundation/Handout HK/KS

Distant planets

A rich starry sky fills the view from an ancient gas-giant planet in the core of the globular star cluster M4, as imagined in this artist's concept. The 13-billion-year-old planet orbits a helium white-dwarf star and the millisecond pulsar B1620-26, seen at lower left. The globular cluster is deficient in heavier elements for making planets, so the existence of such a world implies that planet formation may have been quite efficient in the early universe. REUTERS/NASA

Distant planets

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star in this image released by NASA November 13, 2008. Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish." Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting ever since an excess of dust was discovered around the star in the early 1980s by NASA's Infrared Astronomy Satellite, IRAS. REUTERS/NASA, ESA, P. Kalas, J. Graham, E. Chiang, E. Kite (University of California, Berkeley), M. Clampin (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), M. Fitzgerald (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and K. Stapelfeldt and J. Krist (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Handout

Distant planets

Image shows composite image of Elephant's Trunk Nebula, an elongated dark globule within the emission nebula IC 1396 in the constellation of Cepheus, one of the first images from the new Spitzer Space Telescope released by NASA on December 18, 2003. The new Spitzer Space Telescope, that looks at the cosmos with infrared detectors, has lifted the dust veils from newborn stars and a bumptious comet, and revealed the detail in the spiral arms of a neighboring galazy. Unlike the [Hubble Space Telescope], which takes pictures of the universe from high in Earth orbit, Spitzer makes its observations as it trails behind Earth as our planet circles the sun. Reuters

Distant planets

A handout image received April 5, 2005 from the University of Jena and the European Space Observatory ( ESO) shows the first photograph of a planet (B) beyond our solar system and the star, GQ Lupi (A) around which it orbits. The planet is thought to be one to two times as massive as Jupiter, according to the scientists who imaged it. It orbits a star similar to a young version of our Sun. Reuters

Distant planets

A new view of the Whirlpool Galaxy, one of the two largest and sharpest images Hubble Space Telescope has ever taken, is released by NASA on Hubble's 15th anniversary April 25, 2005. The new Whirlpool Galaxy image showcases the spiral galaxy's curving arms where newborn stars reside and its yellowish central core that serves as home for older stars. During the 15 years Hubble has orbited the Earth, it has taken more than 700,000 photos of the cosmos. (CREDIT : REUTERS/NASA/Handout)

Distant planets

A California astronomer has discovered what he believes is the 10th planet in our solar system, a group of NASA-funded researchers said on July 29, 2005. The new planet, known as 2003UB313, has been identified as the most distant object ever detected orbiting the sun, California Institute of Technology astronomer Michael Brown said. This artist's concept shows planet 2003UB313 at the lonely outer fringes of our solar system. Our sun can be seen in the distance. The new planet, which is yet to be formally named, is at least as big as Pluto and about three times farther away from the Sun than Pluto. The planet was discovered by the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif., on January 8, 2005. (CREDIT : REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/HO)

Distant planets

An artist's rendering image released to Reuters on October 19, 2009 shows an exoplanet 6 times the Earth-size circulating around its low-mass host star at a distance equal to 1/20th of the Earth-Sun distance. The host star is a companion to two other low-mass stars, which are seen here in the distance (L). European astronomers announced they had found 32 new planets orbiting stars outside our solar system and said on Monday they believe their find means that 40 percent or more of Sun-like stars have such planets. REUTERS/ESO/L. Calcada/Handout

Distant planets

In this artist's conception released by NASA February 2, 2011, Kepler-11 is a sun-like star around which six planets orbit. At times, two or more planets pass in front of the star at once, as shown in a simultaneous transit of three planets observed by NASA's Kepler spacecraft on August 26, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Pyle/NASA/Handout