Universal and Local
A Primordial Quasar - The nearest quasars are now known to be supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. Gas and dust that falls toward a quasar glows brightly, sometimes outglowing the entire home galaxy. The quasars that formed in the first billion years of the universe are more mysterious, though, with even the nature of the surrounding gas still unknown.
The picture above is from late March 2011, during one of two times a year when the Earth eclipses the view of NASA's sun-viewing satellite. The edge of the Earth cut right across the disk of the Sun, creating this odd view. This particular shot is in the ultraviolet, where Earth's atmosphere is almost opaque, completely cutting off the Sun's light... except for that one little curlicue on the left. That's an extremely bright filament of material, luminous enough to have some of its light get through, despite our atmosphere.
NASA announced today that it has discovered the first "circumbinary planet"--a planet orbiting two stars. While the planet's officially called Kepler 16b, astronomers are already referring to it as Tatooine, after the home planet of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, which also had two suns.
Moon crosses in front of sun, creating a partial solar eclipse visible only from space. Image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.