(Pocket-lint) – Space is an amazing place. Mankind has dreamt of exploring the distant edges of the Universe since we first set foot on the moon. Yet most of it remains far from our grasp and we can only dream of the delights and wonders beyond our reach.
Despite that, NASA’s probes, long-range satellites and super telescopes have seen many of the interesting things out there – stars, black holes, other planets. There’s an incredible place up there in the stars.
For years now, space organisations like NASA have commissioned artists to create representations of the wonders beyond the stars aimed at exciting the average layman to the possibility of space exploration.
We’ve rounded up some amazing images that show what could be out there in the vastness of space and just how astonishingly beautiful the Universe could be.
Brown dwarf weather
Brown dwarfs are giant balls of gas that start out life like stars but don’t quite have the power to create the necessary nuclear fusion to become what they were meant to. The result is an unstable surface rife with storms and other activity. This image is a representation of what it might look like.
Star surrounded by a protoplanetary disk
This illustration shows a star surrounded by a protoplanetary disk. Material from the thick disk flows along the star’s magnetic field lines and is deposited onto the star’s surface. When material hits the star, it lights up brightly.
Black holes: monsters in space
This is a beautiful depiction of one of the most dangerous objects in the Universe – a supermassive black hole. These sorts of black holes are usually found buried at the heart of a galaxy and can be seen surrounded by a mass of gas and dust which is attracted to the hole by its gravitational pull.
Collection of planets discovered by Kepler
So far, NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 1,284 new planets, the largest number of planets found so far. This image is a sample of the planetary discoveries made to this point.
Located around 560 light-years from Earth sits Kepler-10c, a giant rocky planet that weighs 17 times more than our home planet and is more twice the size. It’s a rocky planet, the sort of which astronomers didn’t think could exist. Planets this size are usually gaseous bodies, not made of rock. Kepler-10c orbits its sun-like star every 45 days which means it’s too hot to sustain life as we know it, but it ‘s still fascinating.
Neutron star over Munich
This is a neutron star. These stars are the smallest stars in existence. They are the result of a collapse of a massive star which has exploded and shrunk to a much smaller size. Though smaller (they’re not much larger than the city of Munich) neutron stars are extremely dense. It is thought that one teaspoon of matter from these stars would weigh as much as the entire human race.
ESO discovers Earth-size planet in habitable zone of nearest star
Our nearest neighbouring star is known as Proxima Centauri and that star sits in the closest solar system to our own. Orbiting that star is Proxima Centauri – an Earth-sized planet that might be capable of sustaining life and surface water. This image shows the imagined view from the surface, that in the distance includes a view of the double star of Alph Centauri AB as well as Proxima Centurai. Quite a view!
Europa water vapor plume
This image shows the surface of the Jovian moon Europa which sits about 500 million miles away from the Sun. Regular plumes of water vapour are seen spouting from the icy surface of the moon. This, combined with other evidence, suggests the presence of a sub-surface ocean below the ice-encrusted surface of the moon.
Dead star vaporising a mini planet
As stars age and near their death they slowly turn into red giants then eventually shrink down into white dwarf stars. White dwarfs have an extreme gravitational pull and evidence has shown other planets being destroyed by the pull from these collapsing stars. This image is a concept of the devastation caused when this occurs and represents a terrifying view of Earth’s future.
The interstellar medium
This image is essentially a map of the galaxy as we know it showing “the interstellar medium” – the matter and radiation that exists between the systems in the galaxy. This area itself is a valid destination for space probes as it would reveal information and data we don’t yet know about the galaxy.
Find out more about it here – https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/interstellar-crossing-the-cosmic-void
Kepler-186f, the first Earth-size planet in the habitable zone
This is a depiction of Kepler-186f, another Earth-size planet in orbit of a distant star which might well make it habitable. Kepler-186f is slightly different from Earth though. It only orbits its sun once every 130 days. It is also thought that because Kepler-186f sits at the outer edge of the habitable orbit, the sun would not be as bright as our own – the lunchtime sunshine only being as bright as our sunsets.
The hottest and most massive touching double Star
Lying 160,000 light-years from Earth, these two giant stars sit in constant contact and share material back and forth. They also make up the hottest and biggest double stars mankind has discovered so far.
Possible collision at Europa
This artist’s impression shows what a high-speed collision with Europa might look like. Europa is Jupiter’s moon and data from NASA’s Galileo mission has shown evidence of a comet or asteroid colliding with the moon at a shallow angle. These collisions leave clay-like minerals and organic compounds, the type of which are found on ancient asteroids and comets.
Epsilon Eridani system
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is part of NASA’s flying observatory. This observatory has been involved in studying a nearby system with makeup similar to our own. This system is known as the Epsilon Eridani system and is astonishing scientists because of how remarkably similar it is to our system. In this image, a Jupiter-like planet can be seen orbiting the system’s sun at the outside-edge of an asteroid belt.
The surface of TRAPPIST-1
This is another image from TRAPPIST-1 – the zone of planets most likely capable of sustaining life. These planets are located 235 trillion miles away from Earth, so it’s going to be a while before we see them properly, but they certainly have people excited.
This is Kepler-20e, one of two Earth-sized planets found orbiting a star much like our Sun in another solar system. Both the planets are too close to the star to be able to sustain life, one is so close in fact that a year only lasts six days. The surface temperature is thought to be around 760 degrees Celcius (1,400 degrees Fahrenheit). So it’s a bit too toasty!
The most distant quasar
A quasar consists of a supermassive black hole surrounded by a mass of gas. As the gas is pulled in towards the black hole, electromagnetic radiation is released that is so powerful it can be observed in a variety of spectrums including radio, infrared, ultraviolet and more. This particular quasar is the most distant we’ve found and one of the brightest objects in the known Universe.
View from planet in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary System
40 light-years from Earth, seven planets orbit an ultracool dwarf star. It is thought that they are an ideal distance from the star to allow there to be water on the surface on several, if not all of them. This image shows what the view might look like from the surface of one of the planets based on what we know the physical parameters of the planets look like.
The newly-discovered rocky exoplanet, LHS 1140b
This planet sits in an orbit around a faint red star in an area which might mean it has water on its surface. It is thought that this planet weighs around six times the weight of Earth and may be habitable.
A wormhole through time and space
This image is an artists impression of a wormhole stretching through space and time. Wormholes are only theoretical and this representation is too, as no one really knows what it would look like inside a tunnel that changes both space and time.
The double-star system GG Tauri-A
Data from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) has detected this binary system with a large disc around the outside. It is thought that this area could possibly contain Earth-like planets as around half of the Sun-like stars in the Universe are born in binary systems like this one.
Mars four billion years ago
With previously uncovered evidence that there may well have been water on Mars, this image shows what the red planet might have looked like four billion years ago. The surface is likely to have had water pooled on it like our oceans with the majority covering the Northern hemisphere.
The glowing disc of material around the white dwarf SDSS J1228+1040
This magnificent image shows a white dwarf star surrounded by a ring of dust and debris. This ring was created when a nearby asteroid was torn apart by the gravity of the white dwarf.
This is an artists impression of the sheer power of a black hole, the gravitational forces of which are so intense that they would basically turn any person or thing nearby into cosmic spaghetti. Stretching mass and material out of shape as it’s pulled into the hole.
The yellow hypergiant star HR 5171
This star is a hypergiant – making it 1,300 times bigger than our own Sun. This particular star is one of the largest 10 stars found so far in our exploration of space. The odd shape of this star is actually shown to be down to a companion star sitting close and in direct contact with the main star.
The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) captured and imaged the remnants of this exploded Supernova. The inner regions are highlighted red due to their cold nature. The colour of the outer rings is highly contrasted due to the inner region blasting with the outwards and hitting the gases previously ejected from the Supernova before its detonation.
The central bulge of the Milky Way
This image shows how the Milky Way galaxy would look like from the outside looking in. It certainly gives a different view from the current view we have from Earth. In the centre sits the central cluster of stars and the spiral arms of the galaxy stretch out as a narrow band surrounding it.
The dwarf planet Eris and its moon Dysnomia
In the distance of this image, the dwarf planet Eris sits, covered in a frost likely formed from the remains of its atmosphere. Recent astronomical observations have shown that Eris is smaller than Pluto and much smaller than initially thought when it was first discovered.
The red supergiant star Antares
ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer has revealed detailed information about the red supergiant sun “Antares” from the Scorpius constellation. From it, astronomers have constructed the most detailed image ever made of any star besides our own. This artwork is based on that image and shows the velocity of the material within the atmosphere of the sun.
Star factories in the distant Universe
This image shows a distant galaxy with large bright clouds that are several hundred light-years in size. These cloudy regions of the galaxy show areas of active star formation, that are 100 times brighter than those in the Milky Way. This suggests that the star formations here are in their early life and much more active than those typically found in other local galaxies.
The wonder of the Universe and creation in action captured in a single beautiful image.
Ice water crystal
In this image, a dying star is seen in the distance as it puts on a final fiery show before its death. In the foreground, an ice-water crystal is seen orbiting the very edge of the system.
Stars born in winds from supermassive black holes
This artwork is inspired by data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope which has observed stars forming from materials emanating from within supermassive black holes. An impressive sight indeed.
The free-floating planet CFBDSIR J214947.2-040308.9
This light blue planet appears this way because it is only detectable via infrared. This is because it only gives off a faint glow in the vastness of space as it’s one of only a few free-floating planets in the solar system. It does not orbit a star like normal planets and therefore does not reflect light in the normal way.
A disc around a massive baby star
This image shows the formation of a massive baby star, images of new stars like this have been captured by astronomers and shows flared discs highlighting their birth. The discs are thought to extend about 130 times the distance that Earth current sits from our own sun and have a mass similar to the star itself – 20 times that of our Sun.
The fastest rotating star
In one of the satellite galaxies of the Milky Way sits this whirling star. This massive, bright star known as VFTS 102 is the fastest rotating star known to man. It rotates at about two million kilometres per hour. This speed has forced the star into an unusual shape with a surrounding disc of hot plasma.
Artists impression of a vampire star and its victim
Research data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope suggests that the hottest and brightest stars through the Universe are often like this – two stars, close together regularly transferring mass from one another. These so-called vampire stars are known as O stars and are a fascinating phenomenon.
Sunset on the super-Earth world Gliese 667 Cc
Astronomers believe that there are billions of planets like this orbiting red dwarf stars throughout the Milky Way. This image is meant to represent one of the rocky planets orbiting the red dwarf Gliese 667 C, which is part of a triple star system.
A stellar black hole
Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope have shown this stellar black hole emanating two powerful jets of hot gas. The black hole is thought to be 1,000 light-years across and twice as large as well 10 times more powerful than any other known blackhole studied so far.
Hot lava world
This illustration shows what the hot, rocky exoplanet called 55 Cancri e could look like. Data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows that this planet, also referred to as the Lava world, has extreme temperature differences from one side of the planet to the other. The result of this is a large presence of lava pools across the surface.
55 Cancri e is twice as wide as Earth but has some similarities. For example, it’s tidally locked, much like Earth but instead of a flowing ocean, the tides here are likely liquid lava.
Exotic binary star system AR Scorpii
This unique double star is made up of a quickly spinning white dwarf that sits close alongside its companion red dwarf. The spinning of the white dwarf powers electrons to near the speed of light, this reaction then releases radiation bursts that cause the entire system to pulse every couple of minutes. This pulsing can be seen from afar and crosses a wide range of the spectrums from ultraviolet to radio.
The ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 from the surface of one of its planets
40 light-years from Earth, three planets orbit an ultracool dwarf star. These planets were originally discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory and data shows they are likely to be similar in temperature and size to Earth and Venus.
This artistic impression imagines what the view from one of these planets might look like.
The Gliese 667C system
This image shows a theoretical example of the view from exoplanet Gliese 667Cd. With a view of the horizon showing the system’s main star and two other stars located in the same solar system.
This solar system has been shown to have at least three planets lying in sufficient orbit from the stars to suggest the likelihood that water could exist on the surface and a potential for the presence of life.
The rings around Chariklo
Chariklo is a remote asteroid in the solar system. It’s interestingly the smallest object in the system to have rings similar to those of Jupiter and Saturn. The asteroid is surrounded by two dense rings, the origin of which are unknown. This artistic impression shows what the rings might look like from the surface of the asteroid.
The surface of the dwarf planet Makemake
Makemake is a distant dwarf planet that’s two-thirds the size of Pluto and travels in an orbit around the sun that’s further away than Pluto’s orbit is too. This image shows an artist’s impression of the surface of Makemake and how it may appear closer up.
Ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 from close to one of its planets
This image is an impression of the potential view from one of the planets orbiting the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. As one of the most interesting collections of planets discovered so far as they hold the correct size and temperature necessary to sustain life.
Crowd of ice cores in the Kuiper Belt
This artwork features an artist’s impression of the Kuiper Belt that contains the ice cores of a multitude of comets. An impressive sight that you wouldn’t want to fly a spaceship through.
Triton is Neptune’s largest moon and is shown here with a view of our Sun along with a blue crescent from Neptune in the distance. The surface of the moon is shown to be much like our own, pockmarked with craters and impact damage from over the years as space debris strikes home.
The Orion KL Nebula is an active star-forming region of space within the centre of a molecular cloud. This artist’s impression shows the beauty and power of creation in a single colourful image.
The disc and gas streams around HD 142527
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope has captured images of a giant disc of gas and cosmic dust around a young star. This disc has massive streams of gas flowing across it that are expected to create giant planets as time passes.
Black hole passing by Earth
This artist’s impression shows a catastrophic disaster as a black hole passes near Earth and its gravity destroys our planet and extinguishes all life.
Humans on Mars
This image is a vision of what it might look like when the human race makes it to Mars. This is an artist’s concept which shows what habitats might look like on the surface and how that technology might help astronauts to explore the planet.
In the meantime, the Perseverance Rover is on a mission to Mars to seek signs of life and collect rock and soil samples to return to Earth in the future.
This is an artist’s rendering of Kepler-62f, a super-Earth exoplanet said to be orbiting the sun of Kepler-62. It was discovered by the Kepler spacecraft and is located about 1,200 light-years away from our home planet.
It is thought to be habitable and larger than Earth, but also likely to be covered in ocean.
GJ 1214b is the name given to another Super-Earth type planet that’s located 40 light-years from our home planet. It’s thought to be 6.5 times bigger than Earth and has a thick atmosphere, but it’s not known if this is hydrogen or water vapour.
This is an artists concept of what it might look like, including two moons orbiting it.
The planets of TRAPPIST-1
In 2017, NASA discovered a region of space with a single star that would be referred to as TRAPPIST-1. In that area resides seven different worlds, thought to be potentially habitable.
This image doesn’t show an accurate representation of the region but does show the potential different surfaces of those planets. Interestingly, the data suggests that some planets in that system could have up to 5 per cent of their mass in water, that’s significantly more Earth.
Writing by Adrian Willings.