The Most Fantastic Hubble Telescope Photographs

Published October 2, 2012
Updated February 1, 2024

The Hubble Space Telescope takes some of the most amazing photographs in the entire universe.

Hubble Telescope Pictures
This close-up of cosmic clouds and stellar winds features LL Orionis interacting with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion's stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged Sun.NASA

Hubble Telescope Pictures Column
Discovered over the course of the years 1745 and 1746 by French astronomer Philippe de Cheseaux, the Eagle Nebula pictured here is part of the Pillars of Creation that was first photographed by the Hubble telescope in 1995. Some scientists have speculated that the nebula may, in fact, no longer have its distinctive shape thanks to a 2007 supernova explosion in its vicinity.NASA

Yellow Stars Against Red
Darker and a bit more foreboding than some other nebulae, the Cone Nebula is in fact part of larger cluster of nebulae (called the Christmas Tree Cluster) and a star-forming body like other nebulae in the night sky. The Cone Nebula lies within the Monoceros constellation and can be viewed in the night sky near the planet Betelgeuse.NASA

Hubble Telescope Photograph
A small section of the Veil Nebula, expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago.NASA

Ancient Supernova Explosion
This particular image stands apart from the rest in that it is not a nebula, but the result of a supernova explosion that would have occurred nearly 7,000 years ago. Despite the age of the explosion and the resulting gaseous debris that form this cloud, the explosion would have been visible as the brightest star in the night sky in the year 1006 A.D.NASA

Butterfly Wings Hubble
The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth's night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though the Butterfly Nebula's wingspan covers more than three light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot.NASA

Pink Line Shape
MACS J0717 is located about 5.4 billion light-years away from Earth, in the constellation of Auriga (The Charioteer). It is one of the most complex galaxy clusters known; rather than being a single cluster, it is actually the result of four galaxy clusters colliding. NASA

Hubble Orange
Huge waves are sculpted in this two-lobed nebula some 3,000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius. NASA

Spiral Blue Pink Dots
This image shows the galaxy Messier 94, which lies in the small northern constellation of the Hunting Dogs, about 16 million light-years away. Within the bright ring around Messier 94, new stars are forming at a high rate and many young, bright stars are present within it – thanks to this, this feature is called a starburst ring. NASA

Colorful Bubble Blue Pink
This colourful bubble is a planetary nebula called NGC 6818, also known as the Little Gem Nebula. It is located in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), roughly 6,000 light-years away from us. The rich glow of the cloud is just over half a light-year across — humongous compared to its tiny central star — but still a little gem on a cosmic scale.NASA

Butterfly Turquoise Center
This image of NGC 2440 shows the colourful "last hurrah" of a star like our Sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star's remaining core. NASA

Hubble Telescope Pictures Cosmos
The Lagoon Nebula, an object with a deceptively tranquil name. The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, churning funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust.NASA

Yellow Cluster Turquoise
Found in the sky of Earth’s southern hemisphere, the Carina Nebula is another of the largest and most visible objects in the night sky. Located within the Carina constellation and in our own Milky Way galaxy, the nebula holds the distinction of being home to two of the most massive starts in our galaxy.NASA

Loose Blue Spiral
Discovered in 1784 by the German–British astronomer William Herschel, NGC 4394 is a barred spiral galaxy situated about 55 million light-years from Earth. The galaxy lies in the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair), and is considered to be a member of the Virgo Cluster.NASA

Swirling Colors In Cosmos
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured stunning images like this for decades now. Seen here are the Antennae Galaxies (known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039) locked in a deadly embrace.NASA

Hubble Photo Image Multicolored
Dubbed the Orion Nebula, this particular nebula is among the brightest in our night sky and one of the most widely studied nebula in the history of the science. Situated near Orion’s Belt constellation (where it is visible to the naked eye as the middle star in Orion’s sword), the Orion Nebula is home to thousands of stars, all in various stages of life.NASA

Orange Dots Black Space
This shot shows a maelstrom of glowing gas and dark dust within one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). This stormy scene shows a stellar nursery known as N159, an HII region over 150 light-years across. N159 contains many hot young stars.NASA

Tilted Galaxy Axis
The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is especially rich in galaxies, due in part to the presence of a massive and gravitationally-bound collection of more than 1,300 galaxies called the Virgo Cluster.NASA

Flocculent Spirals
This galaxy has a soft, woolly appearance as it a member of a class of galaxies known as flocculent spirals. Like other flocculent galaxies, NGC 3521 lacks the clearly defined, arcing structure to its spiral arms that shows up in galaxies such as Messier 101, which are called grand design spirals. In flocculent spirals, fluffy patches of stars and dust show up here and there throughout their discs.NASA

Small Cluster Bright
This galaxy has a far more exciting and futuristic classification than most — it is a megamaser. Megamasers are intensely bright, around 100 million times brighter than the masers found in galaxies like the Milky Way. NASA

Orange Blue Bright
The Calabash Nebula, pictured here is a spectacular example of the death of a low-mass star like the Sun. NASA

Reflection Nebula Central Star
With its helical appearance resembling a snail’s shell, this reflection nebula seems to spiral out from a luminous central star. NASA

Misty Pale Blue
The brightly glowing plumes seen in this image are reminiscent of an underwater scene, with turquoise-tinted currents and nebulous strands reaching out into the surroundings. However, this is no ocean. This image actually shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small nearby galaxy that orbits our galaxy, the Milky Way, and appears as a blurred blob in our skies.NASA

Spiral Galaxy Virgo
The spiral galaxy NGC 4845, located more than 65 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin). The galaxy’s orientation clearly reveals the galaxy’s striking spiral structure: a flat and dust-mottled disc surrounding a bright galactic bulge.NASA

Red Bright Star
Several thousand years ago, a star some 160,000 light-years away from us exploded, scattering stellar shrapnel across the sky. The aftermath of this energetic detonation is shown here.NASA

Lenticular Galaxy Bright
The elegant simplicity of NGC 4111 hides a more violent history than you might think. NGC 4111 is a lenticular, or lens-shaped, galaxy, lying about 50 million light-years from us in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs). Lenticular galaxies are an intermediate type of galaxy between an elliptical and a spiral. NASA

Dark Vein Pink
Nearly 200,000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. As the Milky Way’s gravity gently tugs on its neighbor’s gas clouds, they collapse to form new stars. In turn, these light up the gas clouds in a kaleidoscope of colors.NASA

Virgo Cluster Galaxies Bubble
NGC 4639 is a beautiful example of a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral. It lies more than 70 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo and is one of about 1,500 galaxies that make up the Virgo Cluster.NASA

Red Blue Lines Crossed
Two stars shine through the centre of a ring of cascading dust. The star system is named DI Cha, and while only two stars are apparent, it is actually a quadruple system containing two sets of binary stars. NASA

Starburst Bright
This galaxy lies some 300 million light-years away from us, and is currently experiencing an extraordinarily high rate of star formation — a starburst.NASA

Misty Orange Outskirts
This composite image of a galaxy illustrates how the intense gravity of a supermassive black hole can be tapped to generate immense power. The image contains X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), optical light obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (gold) and radio waves from the NSF's Very Large Array (pink).NASA

Very Small Swirl
Dubbed the Atoms for Peace galaxy, this nickname is quite ironic, as the galaxy’s past was anything but peaceful. Its peculiar appearance is the result of a collision between two galaxies that took place about a billion years ago, which ripped both galaxies apart.NASA

Hubble Telescope Photograph Horsehead
The iconic Horsehead Nebula.NASA

In 2020, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) will have been photographing the cosmos for 30 years. It has had a long and illustrious career, capturing some of the most breathtaking, beautiful images in the entire universe.

With abilities far, far beyond those of the human eye, the HST captures near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light while sitting outside the blurring effect of the Earth's atmosphere.

This unique combination of abilities lets the HST -- whose principal mirror is larger than a human being at eight feet -- peer into the past and examine stars as they live, breath, and die in fiery explosions.

Humanity's knowledge of the universe would be far less expansive compared to what it is now if not for the HST. For example, astrophysicists even used the HST to determine the exact rate of the universe's expansion.

The HST will eventually fall back down to Earth, however, sometime between 2030 to 2040. Don't fret, though. Its successor -- both spiritually and scientifically -- is set to launch into space in 2018.

Its name? The James Webb Space Telescope. Perhaps not as cool as Hubble, granted, but all is forgiven if it can take pictures of our universe as beautifully as the HST.

See some of the best Hubble telescope pictures in the gallery above.

If you enjoyed these Hubble telescope pictures, check out some astounding images of space as well as Hubble's most important image.

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John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.