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Imaging the Cosmos: Universal Appeal

Located in the constellation Orion is one of the most spectacular collections of nebulacity visable from Earth. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Belt of Orion, the three brightest stars in this image, can be seen in the southern skies during the winter months. Photo Credit: Chris Hetlage / Imaging the Cosmos

Chris Hetlage’s astrophotography is nothing short of stunning. His deep sky images of distant nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies will have you believing the he has a direct downlink from the Hubble Space Telescope. The truth is, he uses his own equipment out of a private observatory located in Georgia.

For this first set of images, we highlight the imagery that Hetlage’s Imaging the Cosmos website has produced of objects far out in the universe. Some of the subject matter in these images might be familiar to browsers of astronomy books worldwide, others might be totally new. In either case, the pictures produced by Imaging the Cosmos highlight the capabilities that even NASA has noticed.

On June 12 of this year, NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day selected one of Hetlage’s images for their featured photo. That picture will be part of tomorrow’s lineup of solar imagery.

The Rosette Nebula, also known as NGC 2233, is a very large region of hydrogen gases surrounding a cluster of stars, located in the constellation Monoceros. The Rosette Nebula is located some 5,000 light years from Earth and is nearly 100 light years wide. Photo Credit: Chris Hetlage / Imaging the Cosmos
IC 443 is also known as the Jellyfish Nebula. IC443 is located some 5,000 light years from Earth. IC443 is actually a Supernova Remnant, the remains of an exploding star. It’s difficult to say how long ago this event occurred but it would most certainly been very bright, possibly bright enough to be seen during the daytime hours here on Earth. Photo Credit: Chris Hetlage / Imaging the Cosmos


The Cocoon Nebula, also known as IC 5146, is located in the constellation Cygnus. The Cocoon Nebula is located nearly 4,000 light years from Earth. Photo Credit: Chris Hetlage / Imaging the Cosmos


The Horsehead Nebula is a collection of nebulae located in the constellation Orion. There is a lot to see in this image with emission nebula, dark nebula, and some reflection nebula. The Horsehead Nebula is located some 1,500 light years from Earth. Photo Credit: Chris Hetlage / Imaging the Cosmos
The California Nebula, also known as NGC1499, is an emission nebula located in the constellation Perseus. Photo Credit: Chris Hetlage / Imaging the Cosmos


Written by Jason Rhian

Jason Rhian gained Bachelor’s Degrees in journalism and public relations from the University of South Florida and spent countless hours volunteering with NASA and other space groups to gain experience. He has interned with NASA twice. Once at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press site in 2007 and with NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) in 2009.

Jason has worked with a number of space-related groups and events - including Google Lunar X-PRIZE team Omega Envoy, the 2009 International Space Development Conference and NASA's KSC press site. Jason has covered over 30 launches. His work has been published in Aviation Week & Space Technology, The Spaceport News and online with,,,, Universe Today and other websites.

Whereas some journalists are comfortable repurposing a press release and using imagery provided to them by the public relations arm of that organization – Jason has made a habit of getting behind the pre-approved announcements to cover the events first hand. He covered President Obama’s remarks live from Kennedy Space Center in April 2010. Jason also flew out to Utah to cover the test fire of Alliant Techsystems second test of the company’s Development Motor-2 (DM-2). More recently, he sat in the backseat of history, flying on NASA’s Shuttle Training Aircraft with STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson as he trained for the last mission of the space shuttle era during the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT).


  1. Jason, such wonderful photos!! Trying to put the majesric majesty and awesome awesomeness into words will only do them injustice!!

    I’m gonna go now and pick my jaw from the floor…

  2. Viewing these and other images of the universe puts a profound perspective on humanity’s place in the cosmos. How fortunate we are indeed to be able to experience and understand these wonders. How many other intelligent beings might be out there who can also appreciate what we do? Fascinating!

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