Today was a day for stunning space pictures, it seems

25 Sep 2015

Pluto's snakeskin-like surface captured by New Horizons. Image via NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

From across the universe, stunning space pictures are returning to Earth and, coincidentally, today saw the revealing of a number of the latest finds from galaxies, dwarf planets and star systems.

Space agencies and astronomical groups often share new images of both near and distant space, but today marked a particularly bountiful day for stunning space pictures.

Starting first with Pluto where images from the New Horizons spacecraft continue to pour in a steady stream of raw data.

Now dubbed ‘perplexing Pluto’ by NASA itself, the latest high-resolution images appear to show a strange snakeskin-like array of previously unseen topographic and compositional details.

When looking closely at the enormous Sputnik Planum plain, New Horizons at its closest approach has revealed that what looks like a smooth surface is actually pockmarked with pits, low ridges and scalloped terrain.

“It looks more like tree bark or dragon scales than geology,” said William McKinnon of the New Horizons team. “This’ll really take time to figure out; maybe it’s some combination of internal tectonic forces and ice sublimation driven by Pluto’s faint sunlight.”

Pluto Sputnik

An extreme close-up of the Sputnik Planum. Image via NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Shrapnel from a star

Staying with NASA for a moment, new images from the Hubble Space Telescope have only gone and revealed what is being described as the ‘shrapnel from an exploded star’.

Believed to have exploded 8,000 years ago, Veil Nebula is one of the best-known supernova remnants, spanning 110 light years across and is 2,100 light years from Earth.

NASA explained that the bright regions are where the shock wave is encountering relatively dense material or what it describes as the ‘bed sheet’ ripples if they were viewed edge-on.

Hubble shrapnel image

The ‘shrapnel’ of Veil Nebula. Image via NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

Andromeda in all its glory

Looking outside of NASA, astrophotographers David Lane and J-P Metsavainio recently published on their site an incredible photo of the Milky Way’s nearest galactic neighbour, Andromeda, from their Earth-based telescopes.

Lane took the photo over a period of 37 non-consecutive hours before sending it on to Metsavainio in Finland to apply some correctional touches to bring it to the same standard that would be achieved by major space agencies.

Thankfully this is not the only image that Metsavainio was able to obtain from Lane’s work and he has documented them all with further information on his own website, AstroAnarchy.

Andromeda galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy. Image via David Lane/J-P Metsavainio/AstroAnarchy

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic