Who Needs Fireworks When You Have the Stars?

This detail shot of the Tarantula Nebula resembles sparkling fireworks. (Photo: NASA, ESA, and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI))

As we ease back into our lawn chairs on a balmy summer night and eagerly await the boom and glitter of celebratory fireworks, it's humbling to remember these displays are nothing compared with the cosmic explosions and implosions that occur every moment across our universe.

Sure, we'll never see most of these galactic events with our naked eyes, but thanks to high-powered telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope, we can still get a surprisingly clear and vivid representation of the cataclysmic rumblings happening thousands or millions of light-years away.

The star Eta Carinae is prone to violent outbursts, including an episode in the 1840s that led to the formation of the bipolar bubbles seen in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope. (Photo: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of Arizona) and J. Morse (BoldlyGo Institute))

"Imagine slow-motion fireworks that started exploding 170 years ago and are still continuing," NASA suggested in a July 2019 press release about the image above. "This type of firework is not launched into Earth's atmosphere, but rather into space by a doomed super-massive star, called Eta Carinae, the largest member of a double-star system."

Eta Carinae is prone to violent outbursts, including an episode in the 1840s that led to the bipolar bubbles pictured here. This image is a new Hubble photo, NASA explains, that includes ultraviolet light to show hot, expanding gases glowing in red, white and blue. Eta Carinae resides 7,500 light-years away.

Kiso 5639 is a small galaxy that resembles a firework rocket. (Photo: NASA)

Recognizing the striking resemblance between fireworks and cosmic events, NASA often celebrates July 4 by releasing celestial images that evoke patriotic pyrotechnics. In 2016, for example, the agency released the above "skyrocket" image of Kiso 5639, a small galaxy located 82 million light-years away from Earth.

According to NASA, "Kiso 5639 is a member of a class of galaxies called 'tadpoles' because of their bright heads and elongated tails. Tadpoles are rare in the local universe but more common in the distant cosmos, suggesting that many galaxies pass through a phase like this as they evolve."

There are many more examples of Hubble photos depicting fireworks-esque galaxies and nebulae, so continue below for just a small taste of these explosive wonders.

NGC 6302. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

The wing-like patterns of NGC 6302, also known as the Butterfly Nebula, are found 33,000 light-years away in the Scorpius constellation.

Crab Nebula. (Photo: J. Hester and A. Loll/NASA/ESA)

The Crab Nebula (NGC 1952) is one of the most well-known and recognizable cosmic entities. With its intricate patterns and vivid colors, it's easy to see why. In the Taurus constellation, this nebula is about 6,500 light-years away from Earth.

The rose-like form of UGC 1810 and Arp 273. (Photo: Hubble Heritage Team/NASA/ESA)

While galaxies UGC 1810 and Arp 273 resemble a rose when paired together, they also follow the uncanny form of a firework path.

The 3-million-mile-long jet of HH-47. (Photo: NASA)

Unlike the sparky streams of a community fireworks display, the cloudy, dusty jet of this Herbig-Haro object, known as HH-47, is 3 million miles long.

Eta carinae. (Photo: NASA/ESA/Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

Now there's a collision you don't want to be involved in! Eta Carinae is actually a stellar system of two stars that resemble a cataclysmic explosion when exposed to red and near-ultraviolet wavelengths.

Cosmic firework-like pearls of Supernova 1987A. (Photo: P. Challis/R. Kirshnet/NASA/ESA)

While Supernova 1987A is often likened to a pearl necklace, it also resembles one of the most common fireworks effects.

Ant nebula. (Photo: NASA/ESA/The Hubble Heritage Team)

The Ant Nebula, known officially as Menzel 3, boasts fireworks-like rays and bursts and is found 8,000 light-years away from Earth.

NGC 2440. (Photo: K. Noll/NASA/ESA)

Found 5,400 light-years away from Earth in the Puppis Constellation, NGC 2440 possesses one of the hottest white dwarf stars we currently know of.