The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

NASA releases breathtaking new space images in honor of the International Year of Light

This object, known as MSH 11-62, contains an inner nebula of charged particles that could be an outflow from the dense spinning core left behind when a massive star exploded. (Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane et al; Optical: DSS; Radio: CSIRO/ATNF/ATCA)
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2015 has been named the International Year of Light (and light-based technologies) by the United Nations, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has some special treats to help kick it off.

As you can probably guess based on its name, the Chandra X-ray observatory (launched in 1999) captures the X-rays emitted by celestial objects. But X-rays are just one piece of the full spectrum of light.

These images all combine data from multiple telescopes -- ones that are tuned to capture different wavelengths of light -- to create one stunning picture. You can see the individual shots that made up the composite images at the Chandra Web site.

The observatory is also running a project called "Light: Beyond the Bulb" where scientists and artists can submit their own examples of the power of light. From bio-luminescent lakes to psychedelic shots of light-bulbs under X-rays, the collection will give you a new appreciation of just how beautiful -- and varied -- light is in our universe.

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