Best astronomy images 2012

The Universe is beautiful.Which is interesting. It doesn't have to be; it could be all colorless and weird and lumpy. Instead, it's bursting with color, sculpted by vast forces, molded into fantastic shapes that please our eyes and delight our brains--especially once we understand what we're seeing.Every December I pick my favorite images from the previous year to display, a task that is extraordinarily difficult. I always wind up with a list of about 60 or 70, and I have to cull it down mercilessly. Such is the case this year again, and I could pare it only to 21, a score and more of gorgeousness for you to soak in. I choose the pictures not just for their beauty but also because they are interesting, and different--ones that stand out from the crowd somehow. I usually put them in order with my favorite one last, but this year I just can't. I'll let you know my favorite when you get to it--I expect you'll agree--but other than that it's just a dead tie.

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