Sean O'Keefe

GIFTS FROM THE SKY

One image appears uncannily like a butterfly, its ethereal wings extending into the blackness of space. But looks are deceiving, and the apparently tranquil scene actually depicts a violent nebula of superheated gas charging across the Milky Way Galaxy at 600,000 miles per hour, with a dying star once five times the mass of the sun at its center.

In another picture, a cluster of several swirls of light seem to interact in a celestial dance, while a smaller, glowing circle hovers at some distance from the others. Its lyrical name - Stephan's Quintet - sounds like a chamber music group rather than what it is: a galaxy cluster in the constellation Pegasus, about 290 million light-years...

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