Taken by Prosper Henry, 1885. This photograph of the Ring Nebula in the constellation Lyra shows but a three-degree section of the firmament, 1,956 light-years from earth. Once a star similar to our own sun, the nebula was formed when the star exploded, releasing gasses from its outer shell into space.
This image from Nasa's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a stellar nursery containing thousands of young stars and developing protostars near the sword of the constellation Orion. Massive stars light up the Orion nebula, the bright region near the centre of the image. To the north of the nebula is a dark filamentary cloud of cold dust and gas over five light years long, containing ruby red protostars that jewel the hilt of Orion's sword Photograph: Spitzer Space Telescope/Nasa