Earlier this year, the folks at the European Space Agency's Hubble HQ announced a contest called Hubble's Hidden Treasures: they wanted people to go through the massive archives of Hubble's data and look for gorgeous objects that may have been previously overlooked.
This is a cool idea, and they got over 3000 submissions! They just announced the winners, and it's a collection of jaw-dropping beauty. Here's the first place winner in the "Image Processing" category, a stunner of NGC 1763, part of a massive star-forming complex in a companion galaxy to our Milky Way:
Oooo, pretty. [Click to embiggen.] That was done by Josh Lake, who won the public vote as well as the judges' with this work.
Holy wow! You need to click that shot to see it in much higher resolution to really appreciate it. That's XZ Tauri, a newly-born star a few hundred light years away. XZ Tau is the bright star just to the right of center. In the zoomed shot, you can see two lobes of material on either side of it; these were launched into space during a massive explosive event caught by Hubble back in 2000. The surrounding nebulosity is amazing, too, shaped by shock waves from other new stars which blast off material during paroxysms - young stars rotate rapidly, blow off huge winds, and have strong magnetic fields, which can lead to epic eruptions. They can also blast out beams of material which can travel for dozens of light years.
All the images from the contest are wonderful, and well worth your time to peruse. Funny, too: just yesterday I wrote that digital images from space have revolutionized how we do astronomy, putting the data into the hands of people who can play with it and show us things we hadn't seen before.
I love it when a plan comes together.