Celestial Season's Greetings!

01
of 07

Hubble Images Grace Holiday Cards

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Stars from a globular cluster imaged by Hubble Space Telescope are used to create the illusion of snowy trees against a wintry horizon for a popular holiday card. Space Telescope Science Institute

The holiday season is a fine time to find gifts for that astronomy lover in your life, or for yourself! We've give you some hints about buying telescopes as well as some gift buying guides here and here.  But, what do you do when you're stumped for imaginative and spacey holiday cards? The folks at the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute used a dozen or so of their most famous images to create holiday cards that you can download and print up to send to your friends and family. Let's take a look at six of the loveliest designs. Please do explore the others as you make out your holiday cards and newsletters.

02
of 07

A Winter Wonderland Made from a Nebula

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A great holiday card from Hubble Space Telescope. Space Telescope Science Institute

 This card uses the so-called "Monkey-Head" nebula as a starry backdrop for a winter's scene. The nebula is a starbirth region that lies about 6,400 light-years away from us. Hot, young newborn stars have carved away parts of the cloud of gas and dust where they were born, leaving behind these pillars and scallops. The heat from the stars warms up the clouds of dust, causing them to glow. This is an infrared view, showing those glowing clouds of gas and dust.

03
of 07

Dark Matter for a Dark Winter's Night

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Dark Matter creates a colorful scene on a holiday card. Space Telescope Science Institute

When Hubble Space Telescope looked at a distant cluster of very massive galaxies called Abell 520, it studied light from those galaxes as well as gas leftover from a huge collision between those galaxies very long ago. By measuring how the light from distant objects behind the galaxies was bent by the gravitational influence of the galaxies, plus the glow of the gas, astronomers also found where dark matter exists in this region of space. They applied false colors to each element in the image (galaxies, gas, dark matter, etc.) and that's what makes up the backdrop of this holiday card's wintry scene. 

04
of 07

Galactic Greetings!

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Galaxy M74 Makes a gorgeous holiday card. Space Telescope Science Institute

Distant galaxies seem to float through the cosmos like snowflakes, which is how the Hubble artists saw this gorgeous image of M74 as a holiday card. M74 is a spiral galaxy much like our own Milky Way Galaxy. If you look closely at this galaxy, you can see areas of starbirth (the reddish clouds), clusters at hot young star (the blue stars dotted throughout the galaxy arms), and thin clouds of dark dust (called dust lanes) threading througout the grand spiral design. At the center, the core blazes with the light of millions of stars. Perhaps there's a supermassive black hole hidden there, too, just as there is in our own galaxy.  

05
of 07

Celestial Snow Family Belies Dark Matter

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Dark matter is the backdrop to the universe, and the snow family on this card. Space Telescope Science Institute

 Hubble Space Telescope has observed many beautiful things, and has been on the hunt for evidence of dark matter for many years, and astronomers using this orbiting observatory have found evidence of this mysterious substance bound up in gravitational clumps in galaxy clusters. The backdrop behind this merry snowman and his family is actually a Hubble image showing a ring-like collection of dark matter interposed over an image of a cluster called CL 0024+17. The gravitational pull of the cluster and the dark matter diverts and distorts light from more distant objects. Hubble and other telescopes can detect those distortions, which reveal the existence of the dark matter. 

06
of 07

Red Planet Greetings!

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What could be more lovely than a peaceful Mars scene on a holiday card?. Space Telescope Science Institute

Ever since it was launched in 1996, Hubble Space Telescope has studied the Red Planet Mars. The advantages of such long-term studies by Hubble and other spacecraft on the planet give scientists a look at the planet during different seasons, showing off any changes that have taken place. Here, we see Mars as the planet appeared in 2003. The polar cap is covered with ice, and the giant canyon complex called the Valles Marineris splits the surface just above center right. Over the long term, Hubble's studies of Mars show its polar caps growing and shrinking with the seasons, and clouds and dust storms flit through the atmosphere.The telescope's view is good enough that it lets observers make out craters and volcanic mountains on the surface

07
of 07

Ornamental Views from Hubble

Each ornament on this card design shows a different type of object that Hubble Space Telescope has observed. From the planet Mars to starbirth regions and planetary nebulae to gorgeous galaxies and galaxy centers, you can explore and share with your friends the places HST has shown us. Just behind the planet Mars ornament is a smaller one adorned with the Eskimo Nebula, a vision of what our own star might look like billions of years in the future. That's the beauty of astronomy -- it can show you the past, present, and future of the cosmos in any of the visions shared by observatory on -- or above -- Earth. Share these with your friends and family, and Happy Holidays!