(Inside Science) -- This December, wintry weather descended on much of North America. We celebrate the cold and sparkly holiday vibe in this month’s slideshow. We present image of a frosty environment in our own solar system, as well as pictures of the starry night skies in the universe surrounding us.
Pictured here is Sharpless 29, a stellar nursery located an incredible 5,500 light-years away. This faraway object was captured in stunning detail by the OmegaCAM camera on the European Southern Observatory’s VLT Survey Telescope. The photo blooms with light from the hot young stars within nebula NGC 6559, seen in the center. (ESO)
This month, scientists at the Chandra X-Ray Observatory published a new theory about strange emission lines detected in X-ray light from the Perseus cluster 250 million light-years away. The unusual spikes in its hot gas emissions were first observed back in 2014, and astronomers now think the spikes could be linked to the existence of dark matter. The above composite image shows the cluster in an array of wavelengths, with X-ray data represented in blue, optical data in pink, and radio data in red. (NASA/CXC)
This is Enceladus, a snowy moon of Saturn where surface temperature highs reach only a chilly minus 198 degrees Celsius. Researchers think such a frigid environment could still harbor life in the vast oceans that swell under its icy shell. The moon's frozen surface would provide protection from cosmic rays and radiation, while the hydrothermal activity of the oceans could sustain life. This artist's rendition imagines the moon as a winter wonderland in our solar system. (Warwick)
This month, the Hubble Telescope captured this image of an unusual cosmic object named NGC 5256. Look closely and you'll notice that this strange swirling entity is comprised of two galaxies currently in the process of a cosmic collision. (ESA/Hubble, NASA)
From the Digitized Sky Survey 2 comes this elegant wide-field photo where a pair of stars -- named π1 Gruis and π2 Gruis -- shine brighter than the rest. This month, astronomers from the European Southern Observatory directly surveyed granulation patterns on the surface of π1 Gruis, the red star in the center. This is the first extra-solar star to have been observed in such detail. (ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin)