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10 Cosmic Fireworks to Light Up Your Holiday

If you need even more fireworks this holiday weekend, all you have to do is look up. The cosmos is a gorgeous gallery of twinkling and exploded stars. I’ve collected just a few of these incredible light shows below.

The big and beautiful Fireworks Galaxy shines bright 10 million light-years away:

n6946_blockFireworks Galaxy NGC 6946 (Image Credit: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona)

Human-made fireworks explode during Australia Day celebrations. On the right, lightning flashes and in the center, Comet McNaught streaks down the sky:

mcnaught3_kemppainen_1744Comet Between Fireworks and Lightning (Image Credit: Antti Kemppainen)

The supernova remnant GK Persei—known as the Firework Nebula—is rapidly expanding into a brilliant show of gas and dust 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Perseus:

The-Firework-NebulaThe Firework Nebula (Image Credit: Tiina Liimets et al.)

160 years ago, the supermassive star Eta Carinae underwent an outburst that nearly destroyed it. It survives today as its lobes rush across space at 1 million kilometers per hour:

1024px-EtaCarinaeEtaCarinae (Image Credit: Nathan Smith, NASA)

20,000 light-years away, the cluster of stars known as NGC 3603 twinkles gloriously in the Carina spiral arm of the Milky Way:

NGC_3603bNGC 3603b (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, R. O’Connell, F. Paresce, E. Young)

At the core of NGC 3603, a composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope was taken to document the movement of the stars at the center:

NGC3603_coreNGC 3603 core (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Wolfgang Brandner, Boyke Rochau, Andrea Stolte)

Deep in the Large Magellenic Cloud, NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory detected the remains of a supernova, shown below in a composite image. The small bluish “bullet” in the bottom right of the image is moving at 5 million miles per hour:

A supernova remnant located in the Large Magellenic CloudN49 (Image Credit: NASA/CXC/Penn State/S.Park et al, STScI/UIUC/Y.H.Chu & R.Williams)

NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory found this supernova remnant, designated SN 1572, hiding in the x-ray spectrum. In visible light, we see only darkness. In x-ray light, we see this:

A supernova remnant in the Milky Way about 13,000 light years   from Earth.Tycho (X-ray only) (Image Credit: NASA/CXC/Rutgers/K.Eriksen et al.)

To see the beauty of the Cat’s Eye Nebula, the Hubble Space Telescope (visible light) and the Chandra Observatory (x-ray light) teamed up to capture this incredibly complex nebula in the constellation Draco:

NGC6543X-ray/optical composite image of NGC 6543, the Cat’s Eye Nebula (Image Credit: NASA/ESA)

Herbig-Haro objects are odd, short-lived stellar phenomena where the violence of recently birthed stars collides with nearby gas and dust. Here we see a composite image of Herbig-Haro object 46 made with radio observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and visible light observations from ESO’s New Technology Telescope:

Unprecedented_image_of_Herbig-Haro_object_HH_46_47Herbig-Haro object HH 46 (Image Credit: ESO/ALMA/H. Arce)

Like the Cat’s Eye Nebula, NGC 6826 is a planetary nebula—a shell of ionized gas sloughed off from a late-life red giant star. Below, the Hubble Space Telescope captured this amazing image, a cosmic firework if there ever was one:

NGC_6826HSTFullNGC 6826 (Image Credit: HST/NASA/ESA)

Kyle Hill is the Science Editor of Nerdist Industries. Follow the continued geekery on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

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