Star-forming region NGC 1763

Photo: Josh Lake/NASA/ESA

Cosmic seahorse

Dark red wisps of NGC 1763 form a shape reminiscent of a seahorse in the Large Magellanic Cloud's N11 star-forming region. This stunning image, created by Josh Lake of the United States, won first place in Hubble Space Telescope's "Hidden Treasures" contest.


Although hydrogen and nitrogen produce almost indistinguishable shades of red light that human eyes would struggle to tell apart, Lake contrasted the two gases by separating them out into shades of blue and red. The finished product, which won over the judges and the public, highlights the dramatic structure of the region.


Hubble has recorded more than a million observations since it was launched in 1990, but only a tiny fraction of the archive has been published and seen beyond the scientific community. A few months ago, Hubble scientists invited the public to look through the archive in hopes of uncovering some of the overlooked hidden treasures captured by the telescope. The contest received more than 3,000 submissions, about a thousand of which were fully processed images.


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Spiral galaxy Messier 77

Photo: Andre van der Hoeven/NASA/ESA

Spiral galaxy Messier 77

Andre van der Hoeven of the Netherlands came in second place with his image of the spiral galaxy Messier 77. The piece combines a number of datasets from separate instruments to make for one amazing picture.


Van der Hoeven entered several other noteworthy images into the competition, including images of spiral galaxy Messier 106 and the star-forming region NGC 6537.


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Nebula Chamaeleon I

Photo: Renaud Houdinet/NASA/ESA

Chamaeleon I nebula

The vast Chamaeleon I nebula near the south celestial pole is captured in this ambitious mosaic of Hubble images processed by Renaud Houdinet of France, who painstakingly tiled the exposures together.


Despite the small gaps between each image, the judges were impressed by the technical achievement of putting together this ambitious vista and awarded Houdinet 4th place.


Click here to see all the winning images.

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Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.