A Hubble holiday card features a ribbon of gas in the supernova remnant SN 1006.
If you're seeking stars of wonder for the holiday season, the Hubble Space Telescope's bounty of cosmic imagery is a good place to start. You can choose from free e-cards, a Hubble Advent calendar and other outer-space goodies fit for three kings.
The HubbleSite's online card selection blends classic views of planets, nebulae and galaxies with classic holiday sentiments. You can choose from several sizes suited for standard card layouts. It's best if get your cards produced at a print shop or online photo service, but you can also print them out on your home printer.
If you're a do-it-yourselfer, HubbleSite's gallery can provide you with the raw material for a boxful of colorful holiday cards.
For the past six years, the European Space Agency's Hubble team has offered printable pages for a wall calendar featuring the space telescope's greatest hits - and although 2010 is not yet available, chances are that fresh pages will pop up before Christmas. You'll also find print-ready postcards and an updated "Hall of Fame" with images suitable for printing.
Last year, Boston.com's Alan Taylor offered up an online Advent calendar featuring Hubble imagery, and there's no reason why you couldn't click through the calendar again starting on Tuesday. The idea behind Advent calendars is that you have a fresh goodie to enjoy every day between Dec. 1 and Christmas. So if you want to get into the spirit of the tradition, you'll have to stop yourself from scrolling down past the image of the day.
Hubble's astronomers aren't the only space fans getting into the holiday spirit: The team behind NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory also offers e-cards for winter holidays, and for other occasions as well. For general-purpose greetings, the Old Farmer's Almanac has a selection of "Sky Watch" e-cards, and you can also check out the e-card gallery at the Sky at Night Web site.
Looking for more timely pictures? Our latest "Month in Space" picture roundup fills the bill. Here are links to bigger, print-worthy versions of the images featured this month:
- Sunny day in space: Check out the space station scene at NASA's Human Spaceflight Web site.
- Milky Way: Some like it hot ... Comes from NASA's three Great Observatories. You'll find links to the big picture from my Cosmic Log item.
- ... Some like it cool: Count the stars in the picture of the Milky Way shining over the Grand Tetons, and get back to me by next Christmas.
- Polar patterns: The HiRISE site offers goodies galore from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
- A turbulent gulf: The big picture, and the story behind the picture, can be found at NASA's Earth Observatory Web site.
- Liftoff! Flames and clouds swirl around the space shuttle Atlantis during its Nov. 16 launch.
- Antarctic winds: Another winner from NASA's Earth Observatory.
- Chaos on Mars: The latest big picture from the European Space Agency's Mars Express photo album.
- Red Planet blobs: HiRISE captures a picture of Mars' weird carbon dioxide ice formations.
- Zero-G paparazzi: Check the Human Spaceflight site for pictures of camera-toting astronauts.
- Flash in the sky: Go to Victor van Wulfen's Clear Skies Web site for the big picture.
- Dark dunes: A spooky picture from Mars, courtesy of the HiRISE Web site.
- Milky Way marathon: Get the full story, and the big picture, from Axel Mellinger's Web site.
- Clouds of glory: Kennedy Space Center's media archive has plenty of Ares I-X rocket pictures.
- Power-packed pinwheel: Nice one from Hubble, and in holiday shades of red and green!
- Martian lessons in the layers: Yet another eerie picture of Martian mounds from HiRISE.
- Spacemen at work: The high-resolution picture at the Human Spaceflight Web site can't be beat.
- Gullies going down: An interesting shot of Martian gullies from HiRISE.
- A galaxy's leftovers: The ESO Web site offers up this picture of a cannibal galaxy's meal.
- Million-dollar rocket rises: Check out the X Prize Foundation's Picasa gallery from the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.
- Crab Nebula reloaded: A dramatic picture from the Chandra X-ray Observatory's Web site.
Update for 1:26 p.m. ET Dec. 1: Boston.com has unveiled this year's Hubble Advent calendar, and the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site became fully operational today. So now it really is the holiday season online.
Update for 6:54 p.m. ET Dec. 1: The Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla gets into the holiday spirit by offering an online Advent calendar of planetary proportions.
Join the Cosmic Log team by signing up as my Facebook friend or following b0yle on Twitter. And pick up a copy of my new book, "The Case for Pluto." If you're partial to the planetary underdogs, you'll be pleased to know that I've set up a Facebook fan page for "The Case for Pluto."