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.

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

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
Saturn rings

What are these lines?


snowballs orbiting a planet


rivers on the surface of a distant moon


trails of satellites orbiting Earth

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
Galaxies colliding

What do you think is happening in this photo?


galaxies are dying


galaxies are colliding


galaxies are being swallowed by a black hole

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
The Eagle Nebula, a young open cluster of stars  in the constellation Serpens.

What are these structures?  


close-up of an asteroid’s surface


misty mountains on an exoplanet


towers of interstellar gas and dust

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
Galaxies seen from afar.

What is each point of light in this picture?


a galaxy


a star


a planet

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
Black hole as seen by the Hubble telescope

What is this round blob?


a space donut


ancient microbial life on Mars


gas surrounding a black hole

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
Jupiter's surface.

What is this red swirl?


an iron-rich ocean


a lava lake


a hurricane-like storm

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
The butterfly nebula, a nebula shaped as the insect.

What’s captured here?


an alien spacecraft


a dying star that has shed its atmosphere


a comet and its magnetic field

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