Cosmic Connections
Cosmic Connections
Headshot of Michael Shara

I’m Michael Shara, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History. I work with incredible pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. which orbits Earth outside its atmosphere. The Hubble captures crystal-clear pictures of the universe because the blurring effects of the atmosphere doesn’t interfere.

Hubble telescope next to a school bus showing similar size of both

The Hubble Space Telescope
 
(It's as big as a school bus)

 

Here are eight pictures from the Hubble.
 Can you guess what they are?

The Cygnus Loop, a large supernova remnant.
1

Look at these colorful ribbons. What do you think they are?

 

entrance into a wormhole

 

streams of radiation from galaxies forming

 

glowing gas from an exploding star

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: glowing gas from an exploding star

These colorful ribbons of glowing gas from an exploding star are known as the Cygnus Loop. About 15,000 years ago, a star in the constellation Cygnus blew up. The material from this supernova spread out at supersonic speeds and plowed into the thin clouds of gas in the surrounding space.

Question 1 of 8
NEXT QUESTION
Saturn rings
2

What are these lines?

 

snowballs orbiting a planet

 

rivers on the surface of a distant moon

 

trails of satellites orbiting Earth

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: snowballs orbiting a planet

Snowballs orbiting Saturn make up this planet’s famous rings. What keeps the rings in orbit? You got it—gravity!

Question 2 of 8
NEXT QUESTION
Galaxies colliding
3

What do you think is happening in this photo?

 

galaxies are dying

 

galaxies are colliding

 

galaxies are being swallowed by a black hole

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: galaxies are colliding

Sometimes, galaxies collide as they move through space. See the red blobs? They’re mostly old stars. The bright bluish swirls are bursts of stars forming, triggered by the collision.

Question 3 of 8
NEXT QUESTION
The Eagle Nebula, a young open cluster of stars  in the constellation Serpens.
4

What are these structures?  

 

close-up of an asteroid’s surface

 

misty mountains on an exoplanet

 

towers of interstellar gas and dust

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: towers of interstellar gas and dust

Inside these towers of interstellar gas and dust, new stars are being born. The red dots you see are stars that have already formed in the dust. Eventually, all the new stars will wander away from this cloud, which is a few light-years across.

Question 4 of 8
NEXT QUESTION
Galaxies seen from afar.
5

What is each point of light in this picture?

 

a galaxy

 

a star

 

a planet

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: a galaxy

Almost every point of light is a galaxy. And there are billions of them pictured here! The area of the sky shown in the image is relatively small. It’s like viewing a tiny part of the sky through a very long straw.

Question 5 of 8
NEXT QUESTION
Black hole as seen by the Hubble telescope
6

What is this round blob?

 

a space donut

 

ancient microbial life on Mars

 

gas surrounding a black hole

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: gas surrounding a black hole

This disk of gas is a clue that a black hole is there. Black holes are objects with gravity so strong that not even light can escape. Astronomers detect black holes by observing the material orbiting at high speeds around them.

Question 6 of 8
NEXT QUESTION
Jupiter's surface.
7

What is this red swirl?

 

an iron-rich ocean

 

a lava lake

 

a hurricane-like storm

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: a hurricane-like storm

This giant hurricane-like storm has been raging in the atmosphere of the planet Jupiter for over 300 years. Known as the Great Red Spot, it’s more than three times bigger than Earth!

Question 7 of 8
NEXT QUESTION
The butterfly nebula, a nebula shaped as the insect.
8

What’s captured here?

 

an alien spacecraft

 

a dying star that has shed its atmosphere

 

a comet and its magnetic field

Nope. Try again!
You got it!

ANSWER: a dying star that has shed its atmosphere

This dying star has shed its atmosphere into space. The gas is rushing outward in two opposite streams that look like the wings of a butterfly. Stars can live for billions of years, but eventually they die.

Question 8 of 8
You got out of 8 right on the first guess.
Image Credits:

Photos: Choice A: courtesy of JPL/Caltech and NASA; Choice B: courtesy of R. Williams, the HDF Team (STScI); and NASA; Choice C: courtesy of B. Whitmore (STScI); F. Schweizer (DTM); and NASA; Choice D: courtesy of L. Ferrarese (Johns Hopkins University) and NASA; Choice E: courtesy of HST, WFPC 2, Jeff Hester and NASA; Choice F: courtesy of Bruce Balick (U. Washington); Vincent Icke (Leiden U. of the Netherlands); Choice G: courtesy of NASA, Voyager 2; Choice H: AURA/NOAO/NSF