The Fourth Doctor, Leela and K9 Mark I once encountered such a nebula on "the edge of the cosmos". Although its high gravity was necessary to bring together the requisite matter to form star systems, it was extremely perilous to any ships that might have gotten too near. The Doctor's TARDIS immediately reacted to the proximity of the nebula by sounding alarms. In trying to explain the problem to Leela, the Doctor said that it was "sucking everything around it like a gigantic whirlpool including us."
One craft that did not escape its gravity well was the P7E. Like a fly caught in sandpaper, it was trapped inside the nebula, unable to get out. Over time, more and more matter collected on the hull of the ship until it found itself effectively at the centre of a newborn planet. The R1C nearly suffered the same fate, but the Doctor was able to devise a successful escape strategy. (TV: Underworld)
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This image captures the planetary nebula NGC 2371, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star. The remnant star visible at the center of NGC 2371 is the super-hot core of the former red giant, now stripped of its outer layers.
This edge-on galaxy, called ESO 243-49, appears to host a medium-sized black hole that might have come from a cannibalized dwarf galaxy. As massive as 20,000 Suns, the black hole lies above the galactic plane an unusual location that suggests it originated somewhere else.
This image captures a second "red spot" (lower left) that emerged alongside the bigger and more famous Great Red Spot (right) on Jupiter. The new storm is roughly one-half the size of the Great Red Spot.
This mosaic captures the nearby Triangulum galaxy. Striking areas of star birth glow bright blue throughout the galaxy, particularly in beautiful nebulas of hot gas like star-forming region NGC 604 in the upper left.
While observing the Sagittarius dwarf irregular galaxy, Hubble captured the trail of a faint asteroid that had drifted across the field of view. The trail is seen as a series of 13 reddish arcs on the right.
Einstein rings like this form when two galaxies are almost perfectly aligned, one behind the other, and the gravitational field of the closer galaxy bends the light from the more distant galaxy into bright arcs around itself.
While looking at galaxy cluster Abell 2667, astronomers found an odd-looking spiral galaxy (in the upper left corner of the image) that is plowing through the cluster and being ripped apart by the galaxy cluster's gravitational field and harsh environment.
The globular star cluster M79 is located 41,000 light-years from Earth. It contains about 150,000 stars packed into an area measuring only 118 light-years across. Its stars are some of the oldest in our galaxy.
This image captures the light from 300,000 stars (and a star cluster) in the Andromeda galaxy's halo, a vast spherical cloud of stars surrounding the galaxy's bright disk. Also embedded in the image are many background galaxies that are much farther away.
The striking blue ring of the Lindsay-Shapely Ring Galaxy (AM 0644-741) is comprised of brilliant star clusters. About 150,000 light-years across, the ring structure is larger than our galaxy, the Milky Way.
A unique, peanut-shaped cocoon of dust surrounds a cluster of young, hot stars in this image. This reflection nebula, named N30B, is embedded in a much larger nebula called DEM L 106. The wispy filaments of DEM L 106 fill much of the image.
This image shows Jupiter's volcanic moon Io passing above the turbulent clouds of the giant planet. The conspicuous black spot on Jupiter is Io's shadow. The shadow sweeps across the face of Jupiter at 17 kilometers per second.
At the center of the Crab Nebula sits a stellar remnant called a neutron star that has about the same mass as the Sun compressed into a sphere only a few miles across. Spinning 30 times a second, the neutron star shoots out beams of energy that make it look like it's pulsating.
This image of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field includes infrared observations that allowed Hubble to peer deeper into the universe than it ever had before. The faintest and reddest objects in the image are galaxies that formed 600 million years after the big bang.
Named for the crescent-shaped wave made by a ship as it moves through water, a bow shock can be created in space when streams of gas collide. This image captures the bow shock around the star LL Orionis.
The light from a distant galaxy, nearly 10 billion light-years away, has been warped into arcs and streaks by the gravity of galaxy cluster RCS2 032727-132623. The cluster acts as a gravitational lens, bending and amplifying light from the background galaxy.
Arp 297 is a pair of interacting galaxies that consists of NGC 5754, the large spiral at the top, and NGC 5752, the smaller companion at the bottom left. NGC 5754's internal structure has hardly been disturbed, but it does have some kinked arms just beyond its inner ring.
The giant elliptical galaxy in the center of this image is the most massive and brightest member of galaxy cluster Abell 2261. More than a million light-years wide, the galaxy is about 10 times bigger than our Milky Way galaxy.
The remnant of Supernova 1987A, located in a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud, appears at the center of this image. The red, gaseous clouds that surround it fuel a firestorm of new star formation.
The huge elliptical galaxy NGC 1600 is located 209 million light-years from Earth. The black hole that lurks at the center of the galaxy is one of the most massive black holes ever detected and 10 times more massive than expected for a galaxy of its size.
Young, blue stars and dark lanes of dust trace the winding arms of NGC 2841. Winds from the young, super-hot stars may have cleared out the gas needed for additional star birth and halted star formation in the spiral galaxy.
This picture captures a galaxy cluster called SDSS J1004+4112 that's so massive that its gravity bends light from galaxies behind it. The light of a distant quasar (the brilliant core of an active galaxy) has been bent around the cluster, appearing in five places in this image.
This image shows the tip of the Cone Nebula, a star-forming region in the constellation Monoceros. This conical pillar stretches over seven light-years and is just a small portion of a much larger star-formation complex.
More than 12 billion years of cosmic history are shown in this panoramic view of thousands of galaxies in various stages of assembly. The view covers a portion of the southern field of a galaxy census called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS).
Arp 220 is the result of a collision between two spiral galaxies that began 700 millions years ago. Located about 250 million light-years from Earth, it is one of the nearest galaxy mergers to our planet.
This image shows the remnant of Supernova 1987A, a stellar explosion in a nearby galaxy that astronomers witnessed in 1987. A shock wave of material unleashed by the stellar blast is slamming into a surrounding ring of gas, causing it to glow.
The dwarf galaxy NGC 4214 is ablaze with young stars and gas clouds. This image captures intricate patterns of glowing hydrogen shaped during the star-birthing process, cavities blown clear of gas by stellar winds, and bright stellar clusters.
The light from a distant galaxy, nearly 10 billion light-years away, has been warped into blue arcs and streaks by the gravity of galaxy cluster 0024+1654. The cluster's gravity acts as a lens, bending and amplifying light from the background galaxy.
Spiral galaxies are twisted collections of stars and gas that often have beautiful shapes and are made up of hot young stars. Most of the galaxies that scientists have discovered so far are spiral galaxies, as opposed to the other two main categories of galaxy shapes elliptical and irregular.
Most spiral galaxies contain a central bulge surrounded by a flat, rotating disk of stars. The bulge in the center is made up of older, dimmer stars, and is thought to contain a supermassive black hole. Approximately two-thirds of spiral galaxies also contain a bar structure through their center, as does the Milky Way.
How the spiral arms formcontinues to puzzle scientists. One theory suggests the galaxy arms could be the result of density waves traveling through the outer disk. Encounters between galaxies could cause such waves as the mass of the smaller galaxy could affect the structure of the larger galaxy as the two combine.
Spiral galaxies are thought to evolve into elliptical galaxiesas the spirals get older. But it's unclear how common elliptical galaxies are as they're made up of older, dimmer stars, and are more challenging to spot.
In 2017, astronomers discovered an 11-billion-year-old ancient spiral galaxy called A1689B11. Its discovery will help scientists understand how galaxies transition from "highly chaotic, turbulent discs" to more organized and thinner discs, like that of the Milky Way.