One of six new creepy posters from NASA's Galaxy of Horrors. Credit NASA-JPL / Caltech
While ghouls and goblins represent the terrifying joys many of us associate with this time of year, NASA has just released a series of spooky space-themed posters that are more unearthly than any monster or scary tale told around terrestrial campfires. This year the Space Agency released a series of sparkling posters for Halloween titled Galaxy of Horrors. The terrible goals highlighted in it are all based on real locations in the universe.
A cosmic cemetery is depicted in the Galactic Cemetery. Photo credit: NASA-JPL / Caltech
The posters show the insane and extreme nature of a macabre menagerie of extraterrestrial locations. Take, for example, the example titled Galactic Graveyard. The haunting work of art is inspired by Hubble space telescope observations of MACS 2129-1, a distant galaxy imaged with the help of gravitational lenses.
Galaxy Cluster MACS J2129-0741 and Lensed Galaxy MACS2129- Photo credit: hubblesite.org
Gravitational lenses alone are a phenomenon extreme enough to warrant a poster of your own! When light comes near large gravitational fields from very distant sources, it becomes bent due to spacetime distortions, as described in Einstein's general theory of relativity. This effect enables us to image galaxies that might otherwise be too dark to see.
Slightly less intimidating than the Galaxy of Horrors, this image shows a cosmic "happy face" whose smile is caused by the powerful gravitational lens of distant galaxies. Credit NASA / ESA
Of course, it takes a long time for light to travel this extraordinary distance through the universe. This galaxy is so distant that we see it just a few billion years after the Big Bang, like a high school yearbook photo in galactic terms. In contrast to our own Milky Way, which is still forming new stars, the Galactic Cemetery seems to have stopped star formation. High-mass blue stars are an indicator of the formation of new stars as these stars burn out in just a few million years. However, blue stars are not seen in MACS 2129-1, indicating a lack of star births. As the poster proclaims, the Galactic Cemetery is old, red and dead! The reason star formation stopped in this galaxy remains another haunted cosmic mystery.
The cosmic web of dark matter that connects the galaxies. NASA has no evidence of a megaparsec-sized spider yet. Photo credit: NASA-JPL / Caltech
Another creepy crawling poster from the collection that shows arachnoid art that could make your skin crawl is simply titled Dark Matter. Distributed all over the universe in a web-like structure, the matter that inspired this poster is invisible like a ghost or some kind of massive phantom. Dark matter permeates the universe, connecting galaxies in megaparsec-long filaments, and making up most of the detectable matter. The poster also mentions the upcoming investigations of the Roman Space Telescope, an infrared telescope with a mirror the same size as Hubble, but with a field of view 100 times larger. What secrets of the cosmos will this new telescope researcher reveal?
The Galaxy of Horrors offers more than just posters with multiple interactive components like the aptly named Monster Mash. Click on the creepy, planet-eating face and your device will put you in a three-dimensional simulation of a real exoplanet system so extreme that Jupiter looks like a little lamb. The exoplanet WASP-12b, a planet almost twice the size of Jupiter, orbits its parent star so tightly that it is stretched or crushed into an egg shape. With an orbital period of just over a day, the planet will likely be torn to pieces by its parent star in a few million years.
Not only do posters like this add to the terrifying decor of a reasonably festive office or home, but they also instill a sense of fun and curiosity about space exploration and scientific discovery in the broader sense. They can also give us a sense of comfort as we know we are all better off no matter how difficult the year has been and how uncertain the future may be than if we lived on HD 189733-b where the rains of the Terror sends shards of hot glass through the air at over 8,600 km / h.
If you think the weather is bad where you live, be glad you don't live on HD 189733-b, a planet with scorching, glass-laden winds at mach-7. Photo credit: NASA-JPL / Caltech
All six posters are available to members of the public for free download. The posters are also made available in Spanish to help bring the festive horrors of the universe to an even wider audience. Happy Halloween!