Our universe is undoubtedly as beautiful as it is mysterious, and lately it has been especially photogenic. The folks at Bad Astronomy have covered recent photographs of our universe at work.
One powerful image is of a star birth in action. The photos (originals shown here) are of gas and dust clouds swirling around the new star. Most of the cloud will fall into the star, though some will orbit and eventually form planets. This is of particular interest because our sun is of course a star, and may have been born in a similar fashion. It’s humbling to view stars in this manner – with their future solar systems mere particles whirling around in space.
On the alternate side, Bad Astronomy also reported a beautiful image of a star death. The photograph is of planetary nebula Abell 31. The post was conveniently made on February 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day. With an impressive firework of red hydrogen gas and blue oxygen, the star that died to create the display is a tiny white dwarf. It’s only about 4 times the size of our Earth, or roughly 0.04 times the size of our Sun. Unfortunately, the nebula is quite spread out and faint as a result, making it difficult to study. However, it is nonetheless gorgeous and commands a new appreciation for the universe we live in.