Spooky space images show creepy side of the cosmos

It's always Halloween in some space places. Discover cackling witch's heads, spiders, leering sun faces, and body parts tucked into the soil of Mars.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
Diffuse orange-ish view of two bright galaxies mooshing into each other and looking like a distorted pumpkin with a face.
1 of 34 NASA, ESA, and W. Keel (University of Alabama)

'Greater Pumpkin' galaxies

Space isn't just happy twinkly stars. There are scary sights out in the darkness in the form of ghostly nebulae, gaping sunspots and even a distant moon that looks like the Death Star.  

NASA and ESA's Hubble Space Telescope caught two galaxies in the act of colliding in this image from October 2020. The galaxies' orange color and jack-o'-lantern look earned them the nickname "Greater Pumpkin" as a tribute to the animated Peanuts special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. 

Black and white Mars image of a layered cliff with a rectangular shadowy area highlighted by a red circle.
2 of 34 NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Red circle by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Not a doorway on Mars

Knock knock. Who's there? Nobody. This NASA Curiosity rover image from May 7, 2022, does not show a doorway on Mars, despite imaginative speculation from space fans. 

Two images side by side of the same green-blue nebula with stars poking out. One image has a line drawing of Godzilla traced onto the shapes of the nebula.
3 of 34 NASA/JPL-Caltech

Godzilla nebula

NASA's Spitzer telescope spotted a nebula that looks like it could rise up out of the ocean and flatten a city if it felt like it. NASA JPL talked up the wild image in 2021 just in time for Halloween, saying it looks like a cosmic portrait of infamous movie monster Godzilla.

Ghostly looking spiral structure and stars, kind of like a weird space whirlpool, of a spiral galaxy.
4 of 34 ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST and PHANGS-HST Teams

Goth galaxy

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope team described this 2022 view of spiral galaxy IC 5332 as "goth." Webb's ability to see through dust revealed the galaxy's "bones," giving us a dramatic view of the underlying structure. 

An orange-red round star looks like a web spun by a orb weaver spider, but hanging in space.
5 of 34 ESA/Hubble & NASA, T. Ueta, H. Kim

Hubble CW Leonis carbon star

This "baleful orange eye" is carbon star CW Leonis as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA and the European Space Agency shared the cobweb-like star image to celebrate Halloween in 2021. It's even more fitting for the spooky season when you learn the star is dying. 

A round glass chip in the glass of the ISS cupola against total darkness.
6 of 34 ESA/Tim Peake

Spooky ISS sight

This isn't a galaxy. It isn't a star. It's a small chip in the glass of the cupola observation area on the International Space Station. The chip was caused by a piece of space debris, a reminder of the dangers of life in orbit. European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake shared the photo in 2016.

Color processed view of the sun shows a round globe with flaming eyes, nose and long smiling mouth.

Jack-o'-lantern sun

NASA got into the Halloween mood in 2014 by releasing this fortuitous Solar Dynamics Observatory image of the sun showing a grinning jack-o'-lantern face. A series of active regions on the sun make it look like a cosmic pumpkin carving took place on our closest star.

Blobby looking nebula looks a little like a cute round skull with two eyes and a mouth against the backdrop of starry space.
8 of 34 ESO

Skull Nebula

ESO's Very Large Telescope captured a new spooky view of the Skull Nebula just in time for Halloween 2020. The nebula is home to several stars enacting an elaborate orbital dance. The telescope's view highlights the nebula's hydrogen (red) and oxygen (light blue) content.

Elongated bluish space object radiates light from two galaxies mixing it up inside it, looking like a couple of eyes staring out.
9 of 34 NASA/ESA/J. Dalcanton/B.F. Williams/M. Durbin (University of Washington)

Hubble sees a space face

NASA and ESA celebrated Halloween in 2019 with this Hubble Space Telescope view of two galaxies colliding. The smashup and surrounding ring makes the crash site look like a face with glowing eyes. 

Gauzy blue and orange nebula shows wisps of dust and gas with a set of cone-like shadows looking like bat wings.
10 of 34 NASA, ESA, and STScI

Bat Shadow in the Serpens Nebula

NASA and ESA's Hubble Space Telescope team shared this evocative view of the Serpens Nebula on Halloween in 2018. It showcases a set of cone-like shadows known as the Bat Shadow in the upper right. They look like a bat's extended wings.

A ghostly nebula looks like a see-through veil of dust and gas draped over bright pinpoints of stars.
11 of 34 ESA/Hubble, NASA

Hubble's view of the Ghost Nebula

Casper has some competition. The Ghost Nebula haunts the constellation Cassiopeia in this 2018 image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The spectral appearance comes from a veil of gas and dust. 

Angry-looking cosmic face seems to be glaring out from a nebula highlighted by ghostly wisps of green and pink.
12 of 34 ESO

Skull and Crossbones Nebula

The European Southern Observatory released a look at a star-forming region named NGC 2467 in October 2018. It's better known as the Skull and Crossbones Nebula thanks to its spooky face-like appearance.

"It is not, in fact, a single nebula, and its constituent stellar clusters are moving at different velocities," ESO said. It's just a creepy coincidence that it resembles a wide-eyed skull.

Color-processed Mars view shows a white landscape with dark spider-like landforms with tendril-y legs.
13 of 34 NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

'Spiders' on Mars

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter got an eyeful of "spiders" in 2018 when it looked down and spotted these wild surface formations. The technical name for these is "araneiforms," but they're better known as just spiders. 

 NASA said the spiders are "characterized by multiple channels converging at a point, resembling a spider's long legs."  

An orange-red nebula looks like a spider with legs extended like it's going to catch prey.
14 of 34 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Wisc.

Black widow woven into space

This creepy-crawly formation in space might look like a spider, but it's actually a nebula. Known as the Black Widow Nebula, it's formed from two bubbles and acts as a nursery for baby stars. The fat body makes it look more like a jumping spider, but the Black Widow name gives it an air of danger.

Typhoon Maysak seen from space looks like a giant white cloudy circle with a dark center.
15 of 34 ESA/NASA/Samantha Cristoforetti

Eye of a typhoon

Astronauts on the International Space Station looked down in March 2015 and saw this awe-inspiring view of Typhoon Maysak as it worked its way into a Category 5 storm.

European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti captured the over-the-top look at the eye of the storm. The raw power of the formation is visible even from the safe distance of space. Rain and lightning hid beneath the cloud swirl.

Bone-shaped rock on Mars covered in dust among other rocky bits.
16 of 34 NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Thigh bone on Mars?

In mid-2014, the Internet got very excited about the discovery of what looked a lot like a thigh bone on Mars. NASA was quick to explain that the star of the photo is just a rock shaped by erosion caused by wind or water. Sorry, folks, there is no secret alien burial ground on Mars.

Two empty spacesuits face each other in the dark on the ISS.
17 of 34 ESA/NASA

Space station at night

No, this isn't a still from "Paranormal Activity 20: Spooks in Space." European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst took this image as part of a photo series showing the International Space Station at night. The empty space suits with covers over the helmets look like a good start to a horror film.

Gas and dust in a cloudy formation in the shape of a witch's face looking to the right. Stars shine through the entire image.
18 of 34 NASA/STScI Digitized Sky Survey/Noel Carboni

Witch's head cackles in space

Looking at nebulae in space is a lot like looking at passing cloud formations and deciding what objects they remind you of. The Witch Head Nebula got its popular name due to its resemblance to a supernatural magic-making woman's face. There's a pointy noise and an equally pointy chin jutting out from the bottom. It gets its glow from light reflected from the star Rigel. Stare at it for too long and it might cast a space spell on you.

Jupiter in black and white looks like a swirly marble with a dark moon shadow falling on an oval storm, making it look like an eye.
19 of 34 NASA/ESA/A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center)

Eye on Jupiter

NASA scientists looked at Jupiter, and Jupiter looked right back. This Hubble space telescope image from 2014 shows a dark pupil in the middle of an "eye" on the large planet. The black circle is actually the shadow of the moon Ganymede, but the timing of the photo was perfect for turning Jupiter into a space cyclops.

A cloudy-looking nebula has a dark head and shoulder-shaped clearing in the center of the image, like smoke getting blown away.
20 of 34 Hubble Heritage Team (STScI) and NASA

A ghostly figure appears

A dark human-like shape emerges from a ghostly nebula in this Hubble image. The nebula is officially known as NGC 1999 and it gets its bluish color from reflected starlight. "The ominous dark nebula is actually a condensation of cold molecular gas and dust so thick and dense that it blocks light," NASA noted.

Famous black and white Mars photo shows raised terrain features, including a lump with shadows that make it look like a face peering up.
21 of 34 Picasa

Face on Mars

Mars surface formations don't get more famous than the face on Mars. NASA's Viking 1 Orbiter took the original image in 1976. It showed a mound with what looked like two eyes, a nose, a mouth and an interesting hairdo. Alien theorists got excited about the possibility of a monument on Mars.

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor revisited the freaky formation in 2001. A higher-resolution image revealed the face was really just a funky mound of surface material.

Ethereal view shows a blue hand-like shape reaching into a collection of orange and red light against a dark space background.
22 of 34 NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.

Pulsar as a ghostly hand

A pulsar lurks at the center of this 2009 image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. "The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand," NASA noted. The disembodied phantom-like hand looks to be grasping at the void.

Very orange sun close-up shows a round shape with a dark center and fang-like protrusions.
23 of 34 Big Bear Solar Observatory/NJIT

Gaping maw of a sunspot

The sun is an active place with filaments, holes and flares constantly shifting across its face. This is a close-up look at a dramatic sunspot as seen by the Big Bear Solar Observatory's telescope in 2010. It might remind you of staring into the gaping toothy mouth of the sarlacc pit from Star Wars. Don't worry. It won't eat the Earth. This sunspot is long gone now.

Magical nightmare space image with lots of gleaming stars and a gray collection of ghostly dust clouds forming into mounds.
24 of 34 ESA, Hubble, R. Sahai (JPL), NASA

Phantom clouds in the darkness

Nebula IRAS 05437+2502 doesn't have a very catchy name, but it certainly looks like a frightening formation in space. Stare at it long enough and you might see a phantom rise up from the back of the dust clouds. NASA and ESA's Hubble Space Telescope took this image in 2010. Scientists are unsure what causes the bright glowing arc near the center.

Rocky, cratered round moon with one prominent crater making it look like the Death Star from Star Wars.
25 of 34 NASA/JPL/SSI

Death Star near Saturn

Saturn has over 60 moons, but none of them resemble a deadly Star Wars spacecraft quite like Mimas does. Mimas earned the "Death Star moon" nickname thanks to a large round crater that looks like the superlaser focus lens on Darth Vader's spacecraft. This clear view of Mimas came from NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close fly-by of the moon in 2010.

Blobby oval-ish nebula has dark spots that resemble a skull.
26 of 34 Gemini South GMOS, Travis Rector (Univ. Alaska)

Skull Nebula around a dying star

Planetary nebula NGC 246 has a much more Halloween-y nickname: "The Skull Nebula." It's located 1,600 light-years away and surrounds a dying star. It may take an active imagination to see a skull, but it is most definitely a ghostly looking galactic creation.

Spooky red eye-shaped space object resembles the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings.
27 of 34 NASA, ESA, P. Kalas

Eye of Sauron?

This might look like the Eye of Sauron from "Lord of the Rings," but it's actually a Hubble Space Telescope image showing a planet called Fomalhaut b orbiting a star. This is "the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star," NASA said in a 2008 release on the discovery.

28 of 34 NAIC-Arecibo/NSF

'Skull' asteroid

On Halloween in 2015, a spooky asteroid passed harmlessly by Earth, but it left a lasting impression thanks to its skull-like appearance in radar imagery. This GIF shows the asteroid turning in space. Note the dark areas that look like two hollow eyes.

Wispy Tarantula Nebula has long tendrils of spider-like legs with tons of glittery stars all over.
29 of 34 ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgements: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)

Tarantula Nebula

The Tarantula Nebula gets its name from what the European Space Agency describes as "spindly, spidery filaments of gas." This Hubble Space Telescope image from 2017 shows the crawly nebula, but there's a guest star in the picture as well. The bubble-like Honeycomb Nebula appears in the lower left corner of the image.

The Crab Nebula looks like a green wispy ghost fluffy itself up in space.
30 of 34 NASA and ESA, Acknowledgment: M. Weisskopf/Marshall Space Flight Center

A tell-tale nebula

NASA celebrated Halloween in 2016 with this spectral view of the Crab Nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope. A dead neutron star lies inside the wispy nebula. This led NASA to reference the classic Edgar Allan Poe story "The Tell-Tale Heart," a spooky tract about a murderer who can't stop hearing a dead man's heartbeat.

An astronaut in a gorilla costume pops out of a white container on the ISS.
31 of 34 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Gorilla on the space station

You might look at this video still and wonder if it's from some future Planet of the Apes movie where the apes go to space. This is actually from a 2016 video showing NASA astronaut Scott Kelly wearing a gorilla suit while on board the International Space Station. A supply ship delivered the suit into orbit as part of a care package.

Red circle highlights a skull-shaped rock on Mars sitting on a rocky landscape.
32 of 34 NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, red circle added by CNET

Bigfoot skull on Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover snapped this image in May 2016 of a pretty typical Mars landscape. If you squint at the rock circled in red and let your imagination run wild, then you might agree with some alien enthusiasts who think it looks like a Sasquatch skull. It isn't, but it's fun to imagine a lost tribe of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) running around on the red planet.

Overlapping reddish rings meet in the middle with an eye-like space formation in a nebula.
33 of 34 NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Eye on the Hourglass Nebula

The Hubble Space Telescope peered at the Hourglass Nebula in 1996 and caught the nebula peering back. This startling image shows something that looks a lot like a wide-open eye at the center of the nebula. 

According to NASA, one theory is "the hourglass shape is produced by the expansion of a fast stellar wind within a slowly expanding cloud which is more dense near its equator than near its poles." We can probably all agree this would make for an awesome blacklight poster.

Cloudy, wispy, multicolored nebula with stars shining behind it. Colors of green, red and a central beige area with two bright sections of light like eyes.
34 of 34 ESA, NASA, & Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri (Observatoire de Paris, France)

Ghost Head Nebula

Boo! Stare deep into this image of the Ghost Head Nebula and you will see two bright "eyes" staring back. The Hubble team describes these spots as "very hot, glowing 'blobs' of hydrogen and oxygen."

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