Intense ultraviolet radiation from newly formed stars can ionise surrounding hydrogen gas, stripping away electrons and causing the gas to emit a faint pinkish glow. The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, using the FORS instrument, captured that glow in an emission nebula known Gum 26, a star-forming region some 20,000 light years away in the southern constellation Vela. By catching such stars “pink handed,” ESO says in a statement, astronomers can learn more about the conditions in which stars form and how such stellar nurseries influence their environments. This image of Gum 26 was captured as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme to produce images of especially captivating objects for education and public outreach.
A stunning juxtaposition of an ethereal solar system body, long-period comet C/2014 E2 Jacques, and the vast, heart-shaped emission nebula IC 1805, some 7,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia — winning image of the Planets, Comets & Asteroids category in the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition 2015.