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Before I pursued astrophysics professionally, I wandered through thousands of images of everything celestial online. The public image galleries of space agencies and observatories paired their photos with scientific explanations and these taught me the physics behind beautiful cosmic sceneries of nebulae and galaxies. I immersed myself in astronomy websites almost daily after my high school classes.
If you want to learn about astronomy as a hobby, there's valuable information available on the internet for lifetimes. Not keen on math? Don’t worry: science communicators can bring space closer to us without any equations. Having recently uncovered a folder with some of my favorite astro-photos in my old computer, I’ll share them with you, along with the websites that boosted my interest.
Nebulae (nebula is Latin for 'cloud' or 'fog') are visually stunning cosmic objects. Some nebulae are the remnants of an explosion in the final stages of a massive star's life, while others are created from a gravitational collapse of cosmic gas and dust. When the gaseous outer layers of a star are expelled into space, they create intricate shapes of various colors depending on the abundance of different gases.
Below is a mesmerizing, color enhanced view of the Lagoon Nebula. Colors there represent Hydrogen (brown), Sulfur (red), Oxygen (blue).
View into a star-formation region in the Orion Nebula. Multiple exposures from an infrared camera on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile were combined here, peering into clouds of cosmic dust.
Strands of molecular hydrogen, known as cometary knots, seen in the Helix Nebula.
The galaxy Messier 94 showcases a starburst ring – the glittering parts comprise many young, bright stars, and new stars are forming at a high rate.
The irregular galaxy IC 883 (also known as Arp 193) showcases two tails, which suggest it rather is a remnant of the merger of two galaxies. There are several bright star clusters in its central region: an indication of star formation triggered by the collision. You can spot a number of other galaxies scattered around the image.
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