Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2008

By Phil Plait | December 17, 2008 6:30 am

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Links to this Post

  1. Top 10 Astronomy Pictures of 2008 | JimmyTap | December 17, 2008
  2. | December 17, 2008
  3. Phil’s Top Ten Astronomy pictures of 2008 « AstroGeek | December 17, 2008
  4. Top 10 Astronomy pictures of 2008 | friskyGeek | December 17, 2008
  5. Avalanchas de tierras en Marte y otras fotos astronómicas de 2008 : Blogografia | December 17, 2008
  6. Game Developer and Skeptic » Blog Archive » Bad Astronomy’s Top Ten Pictures 2008 | December 17, 2008
  7. Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2008 « Follow Me Here… | December 17, 2008
  8. | December 18, 2008
  9. links for 2008-12-18 | The Computer Vet Weblog | December 18, 2008
  10. Selección Digital» » Avalanchas de tierras en Marte y otras fotos astronómicas de 2008 | December 18, 2008
  11. | December 18, 2008
  12. O’DonnellWeb - I’m not one of “those” homeschoolers. » Blog Archive » Elsewhere on the Internet (December 17th 17:45) | December 18, 2008
  13. » links for 2008-12-18 | December 18, 2008
  14. News Briefs 18-12-2008 | Psychics Services|Psychics Members Site|Psychics City|Course | December 18, 2008
  15. Chris Miller’s Blog » Blog Archive » Linkdump for December 17th | December 18, 2008
  16. links for 2008-12-18 « Amy G. Dala | December 18, 2008
  17. Top 10 Astronomy Pictures of 2008 « MundoReal™ 2009 (Beta) | December 18, 2008
  18. Avalancha en Marte « El Maro | December 18, 2008
  19. La galaxia NGC 7331 « Pasa la vida | December 18, 2008
  20. I miei bookmark del 18/12 < Livingston, il blog di Marco Mazzei | December 18, 2008
  21. Suburban Panic! » Archive » Links For Brains: 12/18/2008 | December 18, 2008
  22. Nedräkningen har börjat » Rymden i dag | December 18, 2008
  23. Throttling up… « De Calisto a Tritón | December 18, 2008
  24. links for 2008-12-18 | hxf148 | December 18, 2008
  25. Daniels webblogg » Blandade skojigheter | December 18, 2008
  26. The PHA : Bookmarks for December 18th from 14:53 to 14:53 | December 18, 2008
  27. Space Pics « The Zhattva Zone | December 18, 2008
  28. Where have I been? « Steve Fischer’s Random Blog | December 18, 2008
  29. Arsebanging Friday #δεν-προλαβαίνω-σου-λέω! « παρα εξι | December 18, 2008
  30. The Voice of A | Aayush Iyer » links for 2008-12-18 | December 18, 2008
  31. Populär Astronomi - » Årets genombrott: exoplanetbilder tvåa på Science’ lista | December 19, 2008
  32. Das Jahr 2008 Top Listen | Allerlei aus dem Web | December 19, 2008
  33. Etl World News | Assorted links | December 19, 2008
  34. Friday Web run (he’s making a list, checking it twice) - Brent's Blog : Burlington Times News | December 19, 2008
  35. Terrible Analogies » Top 50 Albums Of 2008 | December 19, 2008
  36. People (and Intrigues) of the Year; Best of 2008 Lists | Ontore Bangladesh | December 19, 2008
  37. Badastronomy’s Pictures of the Year « IBY’s Island Universe | December 20, 2008
  38. MG Blog » L’universo è grande e… | December 20, 2008
  39. Survival Machine » What The Future Holds | December 24, 2008
  40. Carnival Of Vettiness : December Links.. « Tales Of Mere Existence… | December 24, 2008
  41. Science Friday: Microscopic Obama heads & more | The Adobe Guru | December 27, 2008
  42. Lo mejor del año 2008 | Artifacts: el blog | December 28, 2008
  43. Epoxi views Moon transit of Earth | Atheist Age | December 29, 2008
  44. Observation Log: 20081229 17:30 « AstroGeek | December 29, 2008
  45. EckerNet.Com » Blog Archive » Deep Thoughts With Kevin : End Of The Year Edition | December 30, 2008
  46. Årets bästa astronomibilder « Medvetenskap | December 30, 2008
  47. » Blog Archive » Final post of 2008 | December 31, 2008
  48. Beelden van 2008 « WEBLOG NORMAN VISS | January 1, 2009
  49. Lo mejor de 2008 « Fermin Bernaus Berraondo | January 1, 2009
  50. Picture of the Week: Mass Transit « Luna C/I: Colonization and Integration of the Moon | January 2, 2009
  51. Blog de Astronomia do astroPT » Melhores Fotos | January 2, 2009
  52. Trapseia » Blog Archive » Out with the old, out with the new | January 3, 2009
  53. Rememorando el 2008: Las listas de lo top « Humanismo y Conectividad | January 4, 2009
  54. Dario Salvelli’s Blog » Blog Archive » Feedmastering #43 | January 14, 2009
  55. 10 tops 10 del 2008. | 10 Puntos... | January 15, 2009
  56. The Drinking Bird | January 15, 2009
  57. 100 Amazing Video and Image Collections for Space Geeks | Best Online Colleges | January 29, 2009
  58. Fotografia Ślubna - Twoje wyjątkowe Zdjęcia Ślubne Śląsk Sosnowiec Katowice | June 7, 2009
  59. mental_floss Blog » The Internet Looks Back at 2008 | June 22, 2009
  60. Blog de Astronomia do astroPT » As maiores descobertas | August 12, 2009
  61. 2008: Year in Pictures, continued | dvafoto | December 29, 2009
  62. Blog de Astronomia do astroPT » Fotos em 2008 | March 17, 2010
  63. Family Blog » Great Photos on the Web (Space) | May 12, 2010
  64. NGC 7331 Spiral Galaxy | February 5, 2011
  65. Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2008 | Open Culture | May 31, 2011
  66. Territory » Blog Archive » 2008 best pictures | August 22, 2011
  1. K

    RE: “I love understanding the size and scale of things, the motions of the Universe, the interaction of objects through gravity, electromagnetism, and collisions.”

    REALLY? How about addressing REAL data & issues such as presented in the Looonnnngg input on the previous blog comments section?? There’s a lot of really odd things being observed with the sun & its interaction with the Earth’s magnetic field & ionosphere, including an observation that, prior to being observed, was thought to be impossible.

    Or we can stick to the pretty pictures (which, by the way, weren’t accessible…at least when this blog entry was posted) and other fluff.

  2. K, he spends the entire blog discussing the nitty-gritty of space travel. As he said in the post, “I choose the pictures for beauty, for scientific interest, for both or for neither.”

    Astronomy creates some of the most beautiful images that mankind has come up with. The whole point of the Top Ten Pictures is to highlight the best.

  3. TexasScienceTeacher

    Wow. I know someone that needs to relax a little bit. Put some brandy in your egg nog, light a fire, and chill out.

  4. TMB

    Great collection, as usual!

    Quibble on #4: There *are* more stars in spiral arms, but the contrast between the arm and the inter-arm region isn’t as striking as it appears because of the young stars.

  5. Sir Eccles

    Meh, looks photoshopped to me :-)

  6. I wouldn’t normally, but in the circumstances…

    “I love understanding the size and scale of things, the motions of the Universe, the interaction of objects through gravity, electromagnetism, and collisions.”

    Word. Thank you, Phil, and here’s to 2009.

  7. Some of them I don’t agree with, but I’m completely in alignment on number 1 – an amazing achievement.

  8. It’s about time you posted this with all the twitter teasing you’ve been doing about it! :)

    Thank you, and inspiring as always. And to think, some people don’t like science for whatever reason. They don’t know what they are missing!

  9. Astronomynut

    Another amazing top ten. Every year it seems it will be harder to top. But while the pace seems slow sometimes, every year there are new discoveries that will continue to spark our imagination. Looking forward to 2009!

    Thanks Phil.

  10. TheWalruss

    “Galaxies, moons, supernovae, planets, nebulae, dust… all of it. The Universe is saturated in beauty, and our technology is starting to catch up with it. We can capture the glowing glamor of the cosmos, and stare in awe and rapture.”

    What makes me most excited of all is the knowledge that technology improves (more or less) monotonically, and at an ever-increasing rate!

    These images are amazing and wonderful to behold, but I can never refrain from wondering… what new images will we see next year?

    Beautiful, Phil. Absolutely fantastic!

  11. NGC 7331 (Number 4: Spiral Art) looks like it’s interacting with something. There is more than one axis of symmetry there. Cool!
    Great selections, Phil!

  12. RL

    Awesome. Waycool. Number 4 looks like a painting or an artists rendition instead of a photo. My reaction when I saw it was, “No way.” But, Way. Its cool to see that real life can be so beautiful.

  13. Best.Image.Ever. That image makes me shiver with pride and wonder everytime I look at it. Simply Amazing!!

  14. kuhnigget

    @ Richard:

    I was wondering about that, too. Very obvious undulations across the disk. Someone must be getting a bumpy ride as they zip around that galaxy.

  15. Mick

    I love picture number 5 and pictures like that. Although they are all lovely, its pictures of multiple galaxies that really hammer home the vastness of our universe, especially since it may in addition also just be one of many realities.

    I do crack up though whenever someone says something like ‘we’re clever, we humans’. For multiple reasons. The most obvious one is that the sentence should read ‘a tiny handful of us humans are clever, the rest is mediocre to extremely stupid (and sometimes enforces its stupidity on the smart ones to boot!).’ But also because humans have nothing else to compare their intelligence too. For all humans know the average intelligence for a sentient species is well above that of the average intelligence for humans. We don’t really know if we’re clever, because we don’t know anything comparable we can really honestly be compared to. For all we know human technological progress is actually slow as hell for a technology using tooluser.

    Humans = Vastly overrated, clever individuals amongst them or not. (I mean those individuals are pretty cool, but the species on the whole not so much. To many morons.)

  16. Cameron

    Awesome list! Number 8 (the pretty galaxy one) is my new desktop!

  17. squawky

    Fantastic – I love the top ten every year, for the pictures I missed seeing and for the ones I may have forgotten (the HiRISE avalanche on Mars I had forgotten…. and it’s wow all over again.)

    I use images like these in lectures, and I have to think they’re infinitely more inspiring to the students than some dry recitation of factoids — and it’s even more fun when they ask questions about images they’ve seen online outside of class.

    I do science because I love the intellectual discovery – and sometimes part of that is staring slack-jawed at fantastic images like these… and then figuring out what we’re seeing and what that means for astronomy (or geology, or atmospheric physics, etc. etc.). So thanks for the not-so-fluffy piece – I can’t wait for next year!

  18. Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)

    I like #4 and #3 the best. #4 is just sheer visual awesomeness — astronomy-pic porn — while #3 vividly gives me the feeling of being down on/near the surface of another world, a world that in many ways is really quite a lot like ours.

    Sooo where’s my Mars rocket?

  19. Thanks Phil, wonderful, inspiring choices. You do link-bait the way it should be done!

  20. wfr

    I nominate #1 for Best of the Decade. A snapshot of an event in the 5-billion year history of Mars that lasted for 5 minutes. An event of our making. A robot photographing another robot on a different world.

    Yeah, we humans are clever. I’d go with us over any extra-solar species you’d care to name.

  21. Cheyenne

    Oh snap!

    Soooooooo cool. Thanks Phil. I like the images, I like ’em all. And I totally appreciate that you took the time to explain them (which increases their wow factor appreciably).

    My 2 runners up are the Martian landslide and Fomalhaut B. “The Descent of Man” though- it’s just epic. It’s really not that “pretty”, it doesn’t look like much really, but it is absolutely frackin awesome in what it represents.

  22. Great list. I knew for sure the fomalhaut pic would be on there, and it’s still my favorite.

  23. So, what happens when an even cooler picture come out next week? Isn’t it really the “top ten astronomy pictures of the first 50 weeks of 2008”? :-)

    Gotta agree that #1 isn’t much to look at, but taken in context of “the whole story” it’s pretty cool. Even better than the Martial rovers on the surface as seen from orbit, due to the transitory nature of the image.

    And, while clicking “next” under the image does take me to the next image, the “start here” link in the main text is 404-compliant.

  24. That should, of course, be “Martian rovers”. Where’s that darn “edit” button? :-(

  25. Lawrence Olivier Twist

    How dare you give us beautiful pictures and enjoy what our technological advances allow us to see! Science isn’t about fun or beauty! It’s about numbers and mind-numbing calculations!

    For Shame!

  26. Gary Ansorge

    Saurons eye and spiral galaxies,,,so,,,fraking,,,COOL!

    Tanks Phil,,

    Gary 7

  27. mike

    What? No cosmic middle finger (carina nebula)?

    Surely a photo of God flipping off Pat Robertson is worth a mention.

  28. #3 “Marsalanche” is actually a detail block from a HIRES image that captured “at least four” (according to the source website) avalanches. There’s another one caught in progress in the same picture here:

  29. I like the picture of Mercury’s stretch marks because they indicate expansion tectonics and planetary growth beyond any reasonable doubt.

    But my favorite picture has got to be NGC 7331 because the spiral shape of galaxies defies the Newtonian God’s allgeed universal so-called “law” of gravitation.

    According to Newtonian divine gravity, galaxies should be sphere shaped since gravity is alleged to act equally in all directions.

    However, the galaxies are spiral shaped and flat in the plane perpendicular to the magnetic field of the quasar thus proving that gravity is a myth.

    P.S. There was no Big Bang.

  30. This is the post I look forward to most each year. Inspiring images, information written so even I can understand it about each of ’em. Thanks Phil!

    Also, love the new gallery thingie.

  31. PG

    I love #1 because it all had to be scheduled ahead of time, due to communication delay times.

    @OilIsMastery: Ahem.. ever heard of “angular momentum”?

  32. Todd W.


    I like the picture of Mercury’s stretch marks because they indicate expansion tectonics and planetary growth beyond any reasonable doubt.

    Apparently you missed this little line in the description of that picture:

    the overview of Mercury showing the rays from impact craters blanketing the entire planet that made me sit back in wonder.

    So, there is some doubt as to whether or not it is “expansion tectonics” causing the rays.

    BTW, still waiting for that answer to my question over on the Enceladus thread.

  33. Mike, the Carina finger is a personal favorite of mine, but note the date on this post. :-) The Carina image came out almost a decade ago!

    And OilIsMastery, why don’t you do some actual research on how these things work before saying silly things? Spiral arms are very well understood (I’ve written about them many times). Mercury’s scarps are from shrinking, not expanding. And everything else you say shows a profound ignorance of any astronomy from about 1950 on. If you want to be considered as anything other than a troll, I suggest you read up on these things rather than spout out your beliefs here.

  34. Wow, the more I read from OIM, the more concerned I get for humanity. Mick summed it up pretty good if you take OIM as a datapoint. Seems that some human beings are clever, the rest just like to leech of the clever ones!

  35. Todd W.


    Mercury’s scarps are from shrinking, not expanding.

    Ahhh…thanks for the correction. I hadn’t gone back to read the original post on that picture and just skimmed the description under this one and picked up the impact crater bit.

  36. PG,

    In response to “ever heard of angular momentum”?

    Yes actually. It requires the Newtonian God. Ever heard of Isaac Newton and fixed stars?


    The spiral shape of galaxies defies the alleged law of gravity.

    As far as astromony prior to 1950, I wish people were ignorant of astornomy prior to 1950 because most astronomy prior to 1959 is pre-Space Age and belongs in the garbage can.

    “Books written about the solar system before the advent of the space age could as well have been written in Latin or Greek, so dated do they appear to a contemporary reader.” — Zdenek Kopal, astronomer, 1973

  37. My new favorite word for the next 24 hours. Crank!

    OIM is a crank. Cranks have these virtually universal characteristics:

    1. Cranks overestimate their own knowledge and ability, and underestimate that of acknowledged experts.
    2. Cranks insist that their alleged discoveries are urgently important.
    3. Cranks rarely if ever acknowledge any error, no matter how trivial.
    4. Cranks love to talk about their own beliefs, often in inappropriate social situations, but they tend to be bad listeners, and often appear to be uninterested in anyone else’s experience or opinions.
    5. No discernible sense of humour.

    In addition, many cranks

    1. seriously misunderstand the mainstream opinion to which they believe that they are objecting,
    2. stress that they have been working out their ideas for many decades, and claim that this fact alone entails that their belief cannot be dismissed as resting upon some simple error,
    3. compare themselves with Galileo or Copernicus, implying that the mere unpopularity of some belief is in itself evidence of plausibility,
    4. claim that their ideas are being suppressed by secret intelligence organizations, mainstream science, powerful business interests, or other groups which, they allege, are terrified by the possibility of their allegedly revolutionary insights becoming widely known,
    5. appear to regard themselves as persons of unique historical importance.

    Cranks who contradict some mainstream opinion in some highly technical field, such as mathematics or physics, almost always

    1. exhibit a marked lack of technical ability,
    2. misunderstand or fail to use standard notation and terminology,
    3. ignore fine distinctions which are essential to correctly understanding mainstream belief.


  38. DrFlimmer

    Oh lord, may there be a rain of brain!!

    (probably this is miserable english, but I didn’t know how to give it a proper translation)

    Oh, wonderful pics indeed! Sometimes it is just relaxing to look at such photos and consider the beauty of the universe (even the scariest things have some kind of beauty, do they not?) and just forget about the stupid human beings running over this tiny planet. I love physics!

  39. Cheyenne

    OIM- Do you think that gravity can bend light?

    Do you think any kind of radiation from the sun (or other celestial body) can cause earthquakes on earth?

  40. Todd W.


    IIUC, OIM does not believe that gravity exists.

  41. Metre

    OMG, who’d have thought that the web’s #1 skeptic would choose a picture of a UFO (from a Martian’s viewpoint) as his top astro photo of 2008? See, they do exist! ;< )

  42. Todd W.
  43. kuhnigget

    @ DrFlimmer:
    “Oh lord, may there be a rain of brain!!”

    Haw haw! My new catchphrase!

  44. Cheyenne

    Thank you for responding to my questions. I was just wondering what to make of your theories. I’ve definitely made up my mind now. Thanks.

  45. Todd W.


    If there is no gravity, then what causes objects to fall?

  46. Grand Fromage

    A slideshow? Bad Phil, bad. Slideshows are a pox on the internet.

  47. JoeSmithCA

    Has anyone seen the blurb over at Scientific American about the Catalina Sky Survey? They noted a telescope in Tucson Arizona was able to find and track the small asteroid before it entered the atmosphere over the Sudan. That’s a nice step in the right direction.

  48. How come Saturns rings are in single plane perpedicular to Saturn’s magnetic field?

  49. Cheyenne

    The Saturn shot in 2006 is so worth a revisit! I just saw that again from your top 10 in 2006. And Mira, in 2007, is just a bruiser!

  50. Todd W.


    For your source, you cite a toy?

    As to your other questions, I’ll let the physicists answer.

    Here’s a question, if the Earth is such a powerful electromagnet, then how can a magnet that is many times smaller than the Earth, made of materials in the Earth, counteract the Earth’s pull?

  51. Todd W.


    If like charges repel, then why aren’t things just flying off the Earth?

    Your arguments are starting to sound so silly, that I wonder if you aren’t just a Poe.

  52. IVAN3MAN

    OilIsMastery’s comments here are analogous to the groaning noises made by some adolescent punk(s) in the audience at a cinema during love scenes on the screen.

  53. Todd W.


    Oh, and by the way, I’m still awaiting your answer to my question on the Enceladus thread.

  54. mike


    Carina nebula images come out all the time.

    Here is an HST press release less than a month old, and it contains the middle finger:

    It shows up nicely in Image 2.

  55. TheWalruss

    OilIsMastery – at this point (and many other points, in many other threads, I might add), you’re just making yourself sound like a nutcase by going against what nearly every other BABloggee holds true, without adequately supporting your claims.

    Now, if you’re a scientist in any “hard” field, be it physics, mathematics, astronomy, or whatever, please let us know. Also, if you could cite some papers backing your claims, that would be nice. Or if you could provide a reasonable motive for scientists the world over to ignore these obviously crucial concerns about accepted theories of cosmology, that would do much to settle my doubts.

    As it is, though – and don’t take this personally – I think you should try to get access to either a better education or a mental institution.

    Best wishes!

  56. Todd W.


    Wait, so your explanation for why a small magnet can counteract the Earth’s supposed magnetic pull is because like charges repel. But things don’t go flying off the Earth because opposite charges attract. So, when a small magnet is involved, what, according to you, is happening. Please explain in detail with appropriate citations to back up your claims.

  57. I am suspecting Poe’s Law, except that I may also be getting lulled by the notion that no one could conceivably be this big a loon… It’s so frightening!

  58. João

    I think it’s incredible that such a post like this, which we should all be happy to see because of the wonderful images in it gets thorn apart due to a couple of moronic comments. Isn’t it possible that -just for once- we may have ONLY comments from normal thinking people? What’s with these guys? Gravity is not real? The earth is a magnet and the moon is moving away because charges repel? Geeesh!

  59. João

    Oh, and wonderful work Phil. The pictures are really amazing! Happy 2009

  60. Phil, these images are great. I love this entry. There’s something wonky in your code, though – an open image alt tag or something. Hover your mouse over one of the pictures to see what I mean.

  61. Thomas Siefert

    The Moon is made from green cheese and as we all know green cheese is least magnetic of all known cheeses. While all other cheeses have a magnetic constant of +1 Rennet (which is just enough to keep them on your table or fridge shelf), green cheese have a magnetic constant of -3.14159 Rennet which not only makes it round but also repels it from earth.

  62. SteveG

    At the risk of actually commenting on your pictures , Phil…

    I don’t envy you the task of picking only 10 photos.

    Still, once again you’ve given us staggering, awe-inspiring, humbling, exciting, provocative, images complete with explanations and observations that boggle the mind. Looking at these pics and concentrating on what they are – what’s going on in our universe even our own solar system, can be a life changing event.

    I’ve just looked at all 10 and now I need to lie down for a bit.
    Excellent work, Phil.

    (and what is that crazy, gyro-scope looking galaxy to the left NGC7331!? The whole picture looks like a CG image for a Star Wars movie!)

    (As for OIM and the rest of his ilk, I’ll save some space on the server and refrain from dignifying his silliness with a reply.)

  63. Quite amazing. There where so many photographic achievements this year, to narrow them down to just ten, is not a job I’d envy or try. Can’t say I agree with your choice, but that is normal. I really liked that you gave solid explanations for each of your choices.

  64. OIM:

    P.S. There was no Big Bang.

    Of course there was. I saw it just this past Monday night, 8PM on CBS.

  65. Folks, I now consider OilIsMastery to be a troll, and his comments will be marked as spam on sight. Please don’t bother responding to him. He is not interested in learning, and will only serve to lower the signal-to-noise here.

  66. Tarrkid

    Ken B:

    It’s just a theory.

  67. DrFlimmer

    I was just startin’ laughin’ about OIM 😉 He reminded me of the South Park episodes about the Mormons:

    “OiM thought he was clever, dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb!
    He thought he was a scientist, dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb!”


    @Tarrkid: A scientific theory!

  68. To anyone who thinks OIM has Poed us all, check out his blog. Now that’s a lot of effort for a prank.

    So, OilIsMastery, if indeed you are made of delicious satire, I salute you!

  69. Todd W.


    Awwww…but I was looking forward to reading OilIsMastery’s explanation of how magnets work, not to mention seeing his evidence that the Earth is expanding.

  70. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important thing: Great selection, Phil!

  71. Metre

    OIM should move from “Bad Astronomy” to the “Expelled!” web site, thereby raising the IQ on both sites.

  72. TheWalruss

    Thanks Phil!

    Back to the images: GAAAAAAWK!

    That edge-on spiral art image is just incredible! I’ve seen most of the other ones in the list, but not only have I never seen this one before, I think it deserves a higher rank! Holy moly!

    Beautiful beyond words is right: here I was trying to say something about this stunning image, and what comes out is holy moly. I’d be annoyed at myself if I wasn’t still transfixed by this picture…
    Yes, I’m typing this comment blindly, while looking at the picture… I guess I’ll scroll down and submit…

  73. That’s it!

    I call Poe’s Law on OiM.

  74. Tarrkid


    Oh, good! I like scientific theories much better.

    All that research and data and peer-reviewed papers gets me all tingly inside…

  75. llewelly

    Tombaugh stumbled on Pluto (only to have its status reduced decades later).

    *eyeroll* WTF is up with this widespread planetist discrimination against plutinos?

  76. Erik J

    The pic of the W5 nebula made my day. Considering turning it into a christmas card. Thank Phil!

  77. Thomas Siefert

    Now that the fly is out of the ointment, I love the pictures.

  78. OtherRob

    As much as I am awed by the achievement of #1, I gotta say that #4 is my personal favorite. Incredible.

    I know the universe is relieved to hear this. 😉

  79. IVAN3MAN

    @ Phil Plait,

    According to O.I.M.’s web-site, he has already been banned from these forums which he refers to as “20th Century Thought Police”:

    SciForums.Com (Banned)
    TheScienceForum.Com (Banned)
    BAUTForum.Com (Banned)
    PhysicsForums.Com (Banned)
    ILovePhysics.Com (Banned)
    ChemicalForums.Com (Banned)
    Chemicool.Com (Banned)
    PeakOil.Com (Banned)

  80. Todd W.


    Looks like you got rid of one troll to make room for another.


    How very, um, Christian of you…not.

  81. Todd W.


    Big Brother’s watching. What does 2+2 equal again?

  82. IVAN3MAN

    Thomas Siefert, you spoke too soon; another fly has landed in the ointment!

  83. Todd W.

    @Phil Plait and IVAN3MAN

    Truecristian seems to be a rather busy little spammer. He’s apparently got posts over at History Channel and HBO, a MySpace page and so forth. I also found this little bit at

    This user has been suspended for being 12 or younger. If you are the owner of this account, we need an email from your parent or guardian, confirming that you are thirteen or older and permitting you to use this site. Email

    And I found that stuff on just the first google page of his name.

  84. Thomas Siefert

    Same fly I’d say, just seem to be to much of a coincidence.

  85. IVAN3MAN
  86. Todd W:

    Big Brother’s watching. What does 2+2 equal again?


    *For sufficiently large values of 3.

  87. MarkH

    @ Truechristian

    Not the words of a true christian.

    Awesome pictures.

  88. I want OilIsMastery back! At least he was funny.

  89. IVAN3MAN

    @ Todd W.,


    Well, that figures!

  90. Amy

    I was planning on showing some of Nova’s Origins to my middle school science class tomorrow, but I think they’re getting your slideshow instead. Beautiful.

  91. firemancarl

    Out frackin standing. Everytime I see a galaxy on it’s side, I think how odd it looks. Like the galaxies inhabitants are all on worlds that are on their side. Ah, the universe.

  92. John Phillips, FCD

    At first I was enjoying them but none were particularly special, well they all are really, but not in comparison to each other as they are all pretty special. However, like you, The descent of Man is also the one that stands out for me and for much the same reasons. My only regret is that I won’t live long enough to be able to personally watch a similar type of sight from orbit.

  93. TRUECHRISTIAN is now considered a troll as well. Ignore him, and I will mark his comments as spam.

  94. firemancarl,

    I think we on on our sides too. Of course it is all relative in space (does that even need to be said?). But if I am not mistaken, the plane of our solar system does not align with the plane of the Milky Way. Nor does our rotational axis align with that of our galaxy. Everything is topsy turvy.

  95. Joe Albietz

    Great selections, Phil. Pics like these put an absolutely stupid grin on my face.

  96. Alex

    about the martian landslides. if youlook at the high res image and follow the link in the text showing multiple slides, it would appear that there are two slides happening at exactly the same time. they are caught in the same larger frame. and they would appear to be a few kilomters appart.

    so, to all you geologists out there, what are the chances of two slides happening at the same time, lets say 2 miles appart, on the side of a cliff? To me this would suggest that perhaps there is a reason why they are happenig concurrently, like pershps an earthquake? although all i have read suggests Mars is not geologically actve. could this be proof to the contrary?

  97. Gary Ansorge

    AH, Trolls, ya gotta luv ’em. All day long they sit under a bridge, asking rediculous questions and making equally ludicrous statements about the nature of reality,,,such lonely critters,,,
    ,,,too bad they eat people,,,

    GAry 7

  98. Laura

    I think it may have been the #1, or maybe the avalanche on Mars. But somehow, my admiration and hunger for science has just grown deeper. It really hit me differently after viewing the top 10.

    So.. Thank You!

    sigh… I think I just might break down in tears when the first human steps foot on Mars.

  99. Laura

    and yes, those are tears of joy I speak of :)

  100. Crudely Wrott

    Thanks for spending the time to look at all the many images necessary to find these and for presenting them in a fashion that connects human dreams, ingenuity and technical finesse so plainly to all of the spectacle around us.

    [grin] It all makes me feel so special, finding myself right here in the middle of it. [/grin]

    Actually, it all makes me feel so special to belong to the specie I do at the time that I do in the place that I do. This makes it possible to celebrate the wonder of human achievement at the same time of year that I celebrate the wonder of the human compassion. So what if they are damn near the same thing?

    Happy crimble, Phil. Here’s looking forward to a new year with you.

  101. I actually made the 😀 face when I saw the Phoenix picture XD There’s a reason I printed it out and stuck it on to my whiteboard – it’s inspiring! We made it. We sent it to another pattern. And as it descended, another robotic probe we made – IN ORBIT – took a photo of it. It may not be visually stunning, but DAMN.

    And if I didn’t already have Enceladus as my desktop, I’d totally make number four it. The Mars landslide, too, is amazing – this is why I want to study planetary science! I want to be a geologist… on Mars! (Areologist?) And, of course, Fomalhaut B is just epic!

    So – fantastic, amazingly gorgeous photos, Phil :) Let’s hope 2009 brings even more spectacular images!

  102. Alex, that’s a good question. It’s possible that the whole region is crumbling, and when one landslide let go, it was enough to destabilize the other part and it let go as well.

  103. gopher65

    There are a fair number of pics here that are far off and away not on my favourite pic list. I don’t even like some of them. But those 2 galaxy pics and the Phoenix pic are 3 of my favourite space images ever.

  104. Nemo

    Beautiful. Thanks Phil, and thanks for posting this stuff throughout the year.

    I am still awed by GRB080319B. I wish I’d seen it with my naked eye.

  105. IVAN3MAN

    Phil Plait: “TRUECHRISTIAN is now considered a troll as well. Ignore him, and I will mark his comments as spam.”

    About time, Phil!

    Anyway, I guessed that you would select the “The Decent of Man” (wait until the fascist-feminists hear about that: “Man?! Man?! It’s PERSON!” :roll: ) as your #1 Astronomy Picture of 2008, because of the excitement about it that you displayed on your “TheBadAstronomer” YouTube channel.

    Next year, Phil, how about offering a prize to whoever can guess your top 3 or 4 selections for Astronomy Picture of 2009 in the correct order?

  106. Rednavy5

    Nice pics. Gotta say though, ranking the first image of a planet outside the solar system #2 is laughable. Yes, I know there is evidence for exoplanets from many other sources (wobble, dimming, etc..), but not nearly as direct. Some of the other pictures are more attractive, but come on. This is one of the most important pictures taken. Ever.

  107. Tamilian

    If “a monster elliptical galaxy over 300 million light years away” so, then the image we could see now in the picture was generaed 300 Millions years which was captured by hubbble telescope by now as light in that image travelled 300 million years.

    What could be the current state( as of today)? that galazy absorbed some more fellows or had big bang or any such things. But sadly we’ll get to know that only after 300 million years after. is it not?

  108. When I see those huge planets I feel so small… lol
    Good job!
    I posted in my spanish blog, thnx!

  109. BigBob

    Thanks Phil. The Phoenix descent is my fave too. But also #10 Mercury (I’ve been following that mission very closely. Also #7 the galaxy field, it gives you a real sense of perspective.
    Beautifully done there.

  110. Todd W.


    But, the psychics would win every time! Or, then again, only as often as educated guessing and change would allow.

  111. IVAN3MAN

    @ Todd W.,

    Ah, the only thing that psychics’ can pick successfully is their own noses.

    Er… 4:27 am? I presume that you reside in the U.S., so are you up early or up late?

  112. Nigel Depledge

    Superb pick of pics, Phil!

    Haven’t we got a brilliant set of telescopes out there right now? And not even one Cassini image!

    Still, we have pics from Swift, Deep Impact/EPOXI, MRO, Spitzer, Hubble and Messenger. And two ground-based scopes. BTW, not liking the gallery format so much, as the firewall where I work is extremely tight and it takes ages to move from one pic to the next.

  113. Cheyenne


    Are you João Magueijo? As in “professor in Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London” João? I’m guessing yes because that isn’t a common name to begin with and you obviously are into Astonomy/Cosmology.

    To any BABlogees out there- his book “Faster Than The Speed of Light” is really interesting (and kind of funny too). He also had a neat show on Discovery or National Geographic (I can’t remember) about the origins of the universe.

    Man, got some intellectual heavies around here (although, of course, I could be completely wrong. But I’ll bet a buck I’m not).

  114. Nigel Depledge

    Thomas Siefert said:

    …green cheese have a magnetic constant of -3.14159 Rennet …

    I have to take issue with you here, Thomas. It is widely understood that only pies can have magnetic constants with modulus 3.14159. This is a schoolboy error. Shame on you!

  115. IVAN3MAN

    Nigel Depledge:

    BTW, not liking the gallery format so much, as the firewall where I work is extremely tight and it takes ages to move from one pic to the next.

    So, Nigel, are you also goofing off at work like Larian LeQuella?

  116. Todd W.


    Up early, before work, east coast of the U.S., so add 2 hours to my posting times.


    João is not all that uncommon. It’s the Portugese version of John.


    I have to take issue with you here, Thomas. It is widely understood that only pies can have magnetic constants with modulus 3.14159. This is a schoolboy error. Shame on you!

    Au contraire, edam and gouda wheels can also have a constant of 3.14159, but only when the researcher is eating a pie. I’ll have to agree with you, though, that green cheese does not have that constant, nor do cheddar blocks.

  117. Thomas Siefert

    Regarding the green cheese, I’m right and you’re *NARF!* wrong. Can you provide any links at all to back up your claims (I will *NARF!* disregard any pre-lactic acid theories as they are all rubbish)?

  118. Jimbo

    “I know someone that needs to relax a little bit. Put some brandy in your egg nog, light a fire, and chill out.”

    Please, don’t be giving that guy matches. Who knows what he’ll do.

  119. Todd W.

    @Thomas Siefert

    Pinky, your head contains more cheese than the moon.

    (It’s Pinky, Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain.)

  120. M4RK

    Im wandering if NASA can actually slam an automatic drilling machine into a comet then imbed a telescope into it that will transmit pictures taken from a view of the comet…hmmmm
    pwede kaya?

  121. Todd W.


    That’s a pretty neat idea.

  122. What about comet holmes exploding?

  123. kuhnigget

    @ thomas siefert:

    “It is widely understood that only pies can have magnetic constants with modulus 3.14159. This is a schoolboy error.”

    I believe the Wallace-Gromit experiment proved with some degree of certainty the cheesy properties of the moon. The only ones who deny the attractive nature of cheese are crackers.

  124. Thomas Siefert

    Teh Wallace-Gromit Moon eXpedition WAS faked! Teh WENSLEYDALE Dairies lead by Peter Sallis was behind this HOAX with Mr. Sallis HIMSELF voicing one of the SO-CALLED Lunar travellers.
    How people can be fooled by this is beyond me, it looks like STOP-motion animation for FSM’s sake!


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