Nestled three thousand light years away in the cosmos is the Cat’s Eye Nebula, or NGC 6543. The nebula was first discovered by William Herschel in 1786, and given its strange structure and properties remains one of the most curious nebulae known to humankind.
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More than any other planet beyond Earth, more than any other heavenly body discovered since the rapid expansion of telescopes, Mars has made a multi-millennia-long career out of taunting humanity. Named for the Roman god of war, Mars is usually visible to the naked eye as a red, flickering pinhole in the night sky. But with only a beginner’s telescope, the many contours and colors of the Martian landscape become clear, and a bizarre and intriguing world lays waiting to be discovered.
Mars is often called the red planet due to its blood-red appearance to the naked eye. But one look through the telescope shows that in fact Mars is rusty orange-brown, streaked with long, jagged black lines and capped on both ends with swirls of pure white. Mars is literally rusted over with iron oxide, but recent meddling by Mars probes has uncovered interiors of a much brighter and more colorful nature.
Often overshadowed by Venus, Mercury, too, has much to offer in the way of aesthetics. This stinging-hot, quickly-rotating planet is named after the Roman deity Mercury, the high-speed messenger to the gods.
Part of NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” series, the photo above blurs the properties of Earth and the celestial Milky Way, as in its presentation it’s difficult to discern which body is doling out the lightning near Greece’s Corfu island. Either way, it’s a stellar shot.
Released by NASA in April 2011, Jupiter’s south pole more closely resembles an exemplary tie-dye work than the gas giant that it is.
Photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, what may look like trees is something else entirely. They’re simply brownish sand streaks cascading down melting sand dunes covered in frost.