A cosmic Halloween gallery: things that go BOO in the night

By Phil Plait | October 27, 2011 7:00 am

Halloween is coming, and while people are out trick or treating or enjoying a costume party, the Universe will continue to go about its business.

The business of DEATH, that is. Black holes will continue to tear apart stars and gorge themselves on the tasty, gooey insides; galaxies will erupt with high-energy radiation, blasting out killer rays for hundreds of thousands of light years; giant clouds of gas will collapse, form stars, and promptly have their interiors eaten out from within.

The Universe is scary, and even scarier on Halloween. And I can prove it to you, with a gallery of eerie and spooky images I hand-picked just for you. So turn down the lights, play some creepy space sounds, and enjoy. And if you get a chill down your spine while you peruse the gallery, why, I don’t blame you. After all, Halloween is for make-believe… but what you’re seeing is very, very real.




CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Halloween

Comments (31)

  1. Chris

    I thought the Silence was the religious order and the alien’s species wasn’t identified yet. But I may be wrong.

  2. GK4

    I don’t know. That “witch” looks more like Abraham Lincoln to me. And the “mourning woman” is actually smiling and waving.


  3. DrFlimmer

    Question: Isn’t picture nr. 3 just the same as picture nr. 1 just rotated by 90°? Maybe, Phil, you put in the wrong picture?

    And now I’m off. My desert is waiting: Chilled monkey brain! 😀

  4. Mike
  5. Luckily, I won’t have to worry about buying candy for trick-or-treaters or making a costume, because the world ended on May 21, 1988, September 6, 1994, May 21st, 2011 and again on October 21, 2011. Any time the world ends four times, it ought to be ended. Or maybe I’ve had too much caffiene.

  6. Tom

    To me, NGC 7000 in Cygnus has never much looked like North America. I always think of it as the Flaming Skull Nebula (I’d call it the Ghostrider Nebula, but I’d get sued)

  7. Ryan

    Actually, if you take the “Running Ghost” image and turn it 90 degrees to the left, it looks remarkably like one of the character icons from the old Dragonlance video game (the SSI version from the early 90s).

  8. Robby

    Hey Phil,

    Your last image is missing from this gallery. There’s nothing there.

  9. Pete Jackson

    That’s one scary Bad Universe out there!

  10. Chris

    @7 Robby
    Isn’t nothing the scariest thing of all?

  11. John Sandlin

    @7 Robby, try typing while you’re still looking at the image. If you look away, your memory of it is wiped.


  12. Mike

    And the asteroid 21 Lutetia is dressed as George Washington for a Halloween party. Here is a link to the article and photo of 21 Lutetia:



  13. NCG 2467 is really telling you to obey its dog. /Zoolander reference

  14. Ganzy

    Phil your missing one of the latest and greatest in your cosmic galaxy of horrors IMO. Surely you can see the demonic Chihuahua rising out of Orions fiery depths in yesterdays image post??

    Check this out too! On a second look just to the lower left of the devil dogs snout, there is a face that bares a remarkable resemblance to you!!… If you screw your eyes up a little bit 😀

    @2 GK4: Yes definiately a profile of Lincoln.

  15. Ganzy

    Came across a cracking cloud pareidolia video yesterday on youtube. Check out the angry jeebus at 0:20 he’s even spitting thunderbolts at 0:50 😀 Some of the comments would be hilarious if they weren’t so serious… It would have been great if Monkey Magic could have come scudding by on his cloud with Pigsy and Sandy, to chase that nasty cloud demon away!!

    Anyone remember Monkey Magic from the 70’s??

    A classic to blow away the chase scene in ‘Bullit’ anyday.. 😀

  16. Infinite123Lifer

    Very ghoul post Phil! We had fun with it! :)

  17. Mike Oliver

    How could you forget the giant demon that rose out of the Sun? Well, I suppose we have all tried to forget…


  18. What? You didn’t include The Ghost of Jupiter Nebula?

  19. DIederick

    I think the Soul Nebula looks a lot like Nagilum, the alien that experimented on the Enterprise in the Star Trek TNG episode “Where Silence Has Lease”.

  20. CR

    Now I’ve got that old T’Pau song “Heart and Soul” stuck in my head. (I can think if worse things, actually…)
    That volcano radar image was by far the creepiest looking thing in this set… it looks like a pic of some three-dimensional sculpture or… or… GASP! an actual face! (Seriously, if I hang that on my front door Halloween, I think it might scare away trick-or-treaters.)

  21. Joseph G

    The “black hole skull” and NGC 2467 are my favorites. That last one in particular reminds me of “The Mote in God’s Eye” by Jerry Pournelle, about a a journey to a star that forms one eye in a nebulous (literally) “face” visible from a human colony.

  22. Chris

    @23 CR
    Am I the only one who thought, “Oh cool a Vulcan song” only to be disappointed that T’Pau is a human group?

  23. Joseph G

    @25 Chris: Hahaha. No, you are certainly not. I had the exact same thought.

  24. CR

    Not THAT T’Pau, gang, sorry. I meant the human group who got their name from the Vulcan.
    (I forgot to mention yesterday that it was Phil’s photo title “Give a little bit of heart and skull” that kicked the song into my head. Maybe now the reference I made will make more sense to anyone remotely familiar with late 1980’s/early 1990’s pop music.)

  25. sam

    Check out this pic of the California Nebula that was on apod a few days ago. The two blue stars are the eyes then there’s a nose and jagged teeth

  26. Chuck Messer

    That Flaming Skull of Perseus looks familiar. I wonder if they cast him for the stargate scene in 2001?



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