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High-resolution desktop wallpaper Out of this Whirl by NASA Images
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Out of this Whirl

March 14th, 2016

The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 (NGC 5194) appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust.

This sharpest-ever image of the Whirlpool Galaxy, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy's grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars. The galaxy is nicknamed the Whirlpool because of its swirling structure.

The Whirlpool's most striking feature is its two curving arms, a hallmark of so-called grand-design spiral galaxies. Many spiral galaxies possess numerous, loosely shaped arms which make their spiral structure less pronounced. These arms serve an important purpose in spiral galaxies. They are star-formation factories, compressing hydrogen gas and creating clusters of new stars. In the Whirlpool, the assembly line begins with the dark clouds of gas on the inner edge, then moves to bright pink star-forming regions, and ends with the brilliant blue star clusters along the outer edge.

Some astronomers believe that the Whirlpool's arms are so prominent because of the effects of a close encounter with NGC 5195, the small, yellowish galaxy at the outermost tip of one of the Whirlpool's arms. At first glance, the compact galaxy appears to be tugging on the arm. Hubble's clear view, however, shows that NGC 5195 is passing behind the Whirlpool. The small galaxy has been gliding past the Whirlpool for hundreds of millions of years.

As NGC 5195 drifts by, its gravitational muscle pumps up waves within the Whirlpool's pancake-shaped disk. The waves are like ripples in a pond generated when a rock is thrown in the water. When the waves pass through orbiting gas clouds within the disk, they squeeze the gaseous material along each arm's inner edge. The dark dusty material looks like gathering storm clouds. These dense clouds collapse, creating a wake of star birth, as seen in the bright pink star-forming regions. The largest stars eventually sweep away the dusty cocoons with a torrent of radiation, hurricane-like stellar winds, and shock waves from supernova blasts. Bright blue star clusters emerge from the mayhem, illuminating the Whirlpool's arms like city streetlights.

The Whirlpool is one of astronomy's galactic darlings. Located 31 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs), the Whirlpool's beautiful face-on view and closeness to Earth allow astronomers to study a classic spiral galaxy's structure and star-forming processes.

Object Names: Whirlpool Galaxy, M51, NGC 5194/5

Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Central Park by knaim
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Central Park

September 29th, 2015

Adobe Photoshop CS6, Hoya HD2 Circular Polarizer 82mm filter.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM.

Photo Settings: 35mm, f/2, 1/25 second, ISO 100.

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Cinque Terre by bnaoki
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Cinque Terre

June 27th, 2013

The town of Manarola of the Cinque Terre region in Italy. This was taken in June 2013.

Adobe Lightroom.

Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED.

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Sunset in the Cascades by smpoutdoors
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Sunset in the Cascades

October 1st, 2015

I took this photo while hiking back down from Vesper Peak in Washington state.

Taken with the Fujifilm x100t using the tele-converter lens.

Photo Settings: 33mm, f/11, 1/250 second, ISO 320.

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Lone Ship by Mohsen Kamalzadeh
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Lone Ship

December 4th, 2014

The Atlantic Ocean, shot from Porto, in October 2012.

Samsung NX10.

Photo Settings: 55mm, f/9, 1/640 second, ISO 100.

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Magical Paris by Lowe Rehnberg
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Magical Paris

November 4th, 2013

The Eiffel Tower glitters like this once every hour in the evenings. This means you really need to time your shots so that you aren't running around between different locations while it happens.

Taken in late August, 2013.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, Adobe Photoshop CC.

Nikon D600, Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED.

Photo Settings: 23mm, f/7, 13 seconds, ISO 100.

Map: 48.8588, 2.2891

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Norway Coastline by Jan Thoma
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Norway Coastline

February 23rd, 2014

Coastline of Senya Norway.

Adobe Camera Raw.

Nikon D800, Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM.

Photo Settings: 35mm, f/11, 1/200 second, ISO 100.

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Seljalandsfoss waterfall by nikonja
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Seljalandsfoss waterfall

November 5th, 2013

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in southern Iceland. Night was closing in, it was cold, muddy, rainy... but I had to take this picture.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II.

Photo Settings: 18mm, f/11, 3.2 seconds, ISO 100.

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Celestial Fireworks by NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team
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Celestial Fireworks

April 24th, 2015

NASA and ESA are celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope's silver anniversary of 25 years in space by unveiling some of nature's own fireworks — a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2. The cluster resides inside a vibrant stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina. The comparatively young, 2-million-year-old star cluster contains some of our galaxy's hottest, brightest, and most massive stars. The largest stars are unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light and hurricane-force winds that etch away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud. This creates a fantasy celestial landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys.

Press release: hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/12/full/

High-resolution desktop wallpaper Canyonlands by Andre Richter
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