You – loyal readers of Scientias.nl – I spoke: The most beautiful space photo of the year is – again! – Created by James Webb.
According to tradition, this was possible from Christmas Day onwards Scientias.nl Voting will be held again for the most beautiful space photo of the year. And we knew it! Hundreds of people cast ballots in recent days, resulting in a clear winner: pictured below!
The winning image was captured – just like last year – by the James Webb Space Telescope. The image was released by US and European space agencies in July of this year, to celebrate Webb's first birthday. At the time, it was exactly one year before James Webb started operating. The image highlights a star-forming region in the multiple Rho Oviucci galaxy. The region is home to up to 50 newborn stars. Some of these stars are surrounded by shadows that indicate the presence of protoplanetary disks from which planets could also be born in the long term.
James Webb immortalizes young stars: Clearly that was good for you. Because in second place we find another picture of James Webb, in which – yes – once again shines a star in the making. It's a truly stunning image of the Herbig-Haro object 211. Herbig-Haro objects are small emission nebulae surrounding young stars that form when newly forming stars spew out gas. This gas collides at high speed with other gas and dust clouds in the area, creating the nebulae you see in this image.
Also in third place we find a picture of James Webb and once again the young stars take center stage. In this image we see a pair of active stars in the formation known as Herbig-Haro 46/47. The newborn stars lie right in the middle, inside the orange-white spot, buried deep in a disk of gas and dust on which they feed (and continue to grow in mass). Also striking, of course, are the two jet streams emanating from actively forming stars (fiery orange). It is material thrown out by the stars.
In fourth place we also find a stunning photo, which for a change was not taken by James Webb. The image – taken by the recently repaired Gemini North telescope – shows the Windmill Galaxy, also known as Messier 101. The galaxy is home to nearly a trillion stars and the closest supernova has been observed in the past five years. The effects of the accident are clearly visible in the image: the bright spot in the spiral arm is on the left of the image.
In fifth place is another picture of James Webb. From the Crab Nebula: one of the most famous supernova remnants. At the heart of the nebula, a neutron star – or pulsar – rotates on its axis thirty times every second. The nebula has been photographed thousands of times, yet James Webb has managed to surprise scientists and enthusiasts with his extremely detailed image.
It's almost starting to get boring, but in sixth place we find another picture of James Webb. And shining on it is something we've never seen before – unlike the Crab Nebula mentioned above: two star-forming regions in the nearby Small Magellanic Cloud – which have already been studied extensively. In the dusty “streaks” in this image, astronomers have found signs that many new stars are being born there.
In seventh place is the work of a newcomer: Euclid. The telescope launched last summer and sent its first color images this fall. The astronomers were crazy: the images turned out to be extremely sharp. “We have never seen such detailed astronomical images before,” said Rene Lorig, who works on the Euclid team. “They (images, editor) are more beautiful and clearer than we had hoped, and show us many features previously unseen in known parts of the nearby universe.” A total of five color images of Euclid have been released this fall, including one showing the famous and very impressive Horsehead Nebula. This image ranked seventh among the 10 most beautiful satellite images!
There isn't more room in the top 10 for newcomers or veterans; Because place 8 was also claimed by James Webb again with the image of Uranus. Of course, this planet has been immortalized before, but James Webb's photos are still stunning. Because in addition to Uranus, James Webb also captures the planet's complex ring system, bright polar cap, and perhaps even the planet's storm clouds! The telescope thus reveals that this planet – often a simple, dull, blue-green ball in previous images – is more exciting and dynamic than expected.
In ninth place we find the only satellite image in these elections, which was taken by an astrophotographer. In that photo – that I took Kenneth LeRose – The brilliance of Comet Nishimura. This one flew too close to the sun in September. Very special, because the last time this comet visited the interior of the solar system, our ancestors fought the Eighty Years War! In Lerose's photo of the comet, not only does the comet shine, but its long, bright tail also shines. Nice pic!
Then the last photo: In tenth place we find a photo taken by the South Korean lunar module Danori. The picture may look familiar to you and it may be true. It's really kind remake From the famous Earthrise image taken during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968. In this image we also see the Earth looming behind the surface of the Moon. The photo is several times sharper than the one taken in 1968. Add a little nostalgia, and it's no wonder that – just in time – it made the top 10 in our space photo picks!
This completes our top ten once again. Thank you for voting! On behalf of the entire editorial team, we wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best in 2024!
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