The photos were published in honor of the great work of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which yesterday celebrated 24 years in operation.
The star factory that is the Monkey Head Nebula, or NGC 2174, makes for dramatic images because the intense infrared energy of newly born stars collides with the nebula's cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases, shaping the dust cloud in pillars and causing it to glow.
NASA teams up with the European Space Agency to fund and operate the Hubble Space Telescope at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
While the Hubble Telescope remains the most famous telescope in the world, NASA has plans to launch a next-generation telescope -- with the help of 17 other countries -- in 2018. Scientists expect the Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, to peer farther into space, and with greater detail, than ever before.