Today is the International Day of Human Space Flight, in dedication of the first ever manned space flight made on April 12, 1961 by the 27-year-old Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
In honour of this incredible feat we've pulled together the most unbelievable pictures ever taken from space.
The Eagle Nebula’s Pillars Of Creation courtesy of NASA, ESA/Hubbleand the Hubble Heritage Team
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revisited one of its most iconic and popular images: the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. This image shows the pillars as seen in visible light, capturing the multi-coloured glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-coloured elephants’ trunks of the nebula’s famous pillars.
The Orion Nebula courtesy of NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team
This dramatic image offers a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming. The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.
Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300 courtesy of NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
The Hubble telescope captured this display of starlight, glowing gas, and silhouetted dark clouds of interstellar dust of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300. NGC 1300 is considered to be prototypical of barred spiral galaxies. Barred spirals differ from normal spiral galaxies in that the arms of the galaxy do not spiral all the way into the center, but are connected to the two ends of a straight bar of stars containing the nucleus at its center.
NGC 2174 courtesy of NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
To celebrate its 24th year in orbit, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope released this beautiful image of part of NGC 2174, also known as the Monkey Head Nebula.
NGC 2174 lies about 6400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter). Hubble previously viewed this part of the sky back in 2011 - the colourful region is filled with young stars embedded within bright wisps of cosmic gas and dust.
The Veil Nebula courtesy of NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team
This image shows a small section of the Veil Nebula, as it was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This section of the outer shell of the famous supernova remnant is in a region known as NGC 6960 or — more colloquially — the Witch’s Broom Nebula.
RS Puppis courtesy of NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collaboration. Acknowledgment: H. Bond (STScI and Penn State University)
This Hubble image shows RS Puppis, a type of variable star known as a Cepheid variable. RS Puppis is unusual; this variable star is shrouded by thick, dark clouds of dust enabling a phenomenon known as a light echo to be shown with stunning clarity. These Hubble observations show the ethereal object embedded in its dusty environment, set against a dark sky filled with background galaxies.
If you're feeling inspired and want to browse some more space art, view our collection here.