Space views that would have wowed even Capt. Kirk (pictures)

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory shares rare images with the public of supernovas and black holes from its spectacular archive.

Charles Cooper

Cassiopeia like you've never seen it

In this image, a stunning view of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. The low-energy X-rays are colored red, medium-energy ones are green, while blue points to the highest-energy X-rays.

This level of 3D detail is the result of a collaborative effort involving NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Smithsonian Institution. The image combines data supplied by Chandra, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based installations on Earth.

Meanwhile, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which houses a trove of spectacular space photos, is releasing never-before-seen images from its archive, which we're reproducing in this gallery. Happy viewing.

2 of 8 Chandra/NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley et al

Glowing nebula near Sagittarius

This shot captures a region of glowing gas in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way galaxy called NGC 3576, some 9,000 light-years from Earth.
3 of 8 Chandra X-Ray Observatory/NRAO/VLA)

Supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies

Giant plumes of radiation generated by 3C353, a supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy, about 410 million light-years from Earth.
4 of 8 Chandra X-Ray Observatory/ NASA/CXC/Univ of Manitoba/S.Safi-Harb et al

Unusual -- even for the unusual

Astronomers are puzzled by the box-like appearance of 3C 397, a galactic supernova remnant with a decidedly unusual shape. Researchers think its shape has much to do with what happens when the heated remains of the exploded star collides into surrounding cooler gas.
5 of 8 NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory

2,400 light-years from Earth

After the explosion of a massive star in the Milky Way galaxy, the result was a supernova known as G266.2-1.2, about 2,400 light-years from our planet.
6 of 8 Chandra X-Ray Observatory/NASA/CXC/PSU/Getman et al, Optical: DSS, Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Elephant Trunk Nebula

Just for giggles, they ought to serve this image up as a Rorschach test to someone. Until then, suffice to say that 1396A, also known by its official moniker of the Elephant Trunk Nebula, is the end result when radiation and winds escaping from massive young stars impact clouds of cool gas some 2,800 light-years away.
7 of 8 Chandra X-Ray Space Observatory/NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al.

The 'Fireworks Galaxy'

Over the last century, scientists say that this spiral galaxy some 22 million light-years away from Earth has witnessed eight supernova explosions. Hence, its deserved nickname: the "Fireworks Galaxy."
8 of 8 Chandra X-Ray Observatory/NASA/CXC/Univ degli Studi Roma Tre/A.Marinucci et al.

A familiar galaxy for Earthlings?

Peering into the central region of this galaxy, known as NGC 4945 and just 13 million light-years from Earth, astronomers find a region which appears similar to our own Milky Way. One big difference: It features a far more active supermassive black hole within the white area near the top.

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