Spooky space: 11 haunting images of our cosmos

clouds of gas and dust look like a spooky jack-o'-lantern.
Outflows of radiation and particles from a massive O-type star carved deep gouges in this nebula, making the cloud of gas and dust look like a spooky jack-o'-lantern. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Witches, ghosts and ghouls don't just haunt the Earth on Halloween night — such spooky figures exist throughout the universe, too. 

From unnerving nebulas to zombie stars. Here are some of the most spine-chilling space photos to scare your pants off this Halloween.

Related: Best space horror movies

Ghost Hand of God

Can you see the shape of a hand in this X-ray image? (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGil)

This glowing, green zombie-like hand reaches through the depths of space to grab a bright-red cloud of light. Is this a giant space zombie grabbing some dinner? Not quite — NASA calls this nebula the "Hand of God." It is actually a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova.

Screaming skull

The Perseus Cluster when viewed in X-rays by the Chandra Observatory.  (Image credit: A. Fabian (IoA Cambridge) et al., NASA)

Yikes! This ghastly face in space appears to be screaming while suffering through a miserable, fiery death. But no real skulls were harmed in the making of this photo. It's actually an X-ray image of a cluster of galaxies known as the Perseus Cluster, captured by the Chandra Observatory.

Space Ghosts

The dark nebula SH2-136 takes the shape of ghostly figures. (Image credit: KPNO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/Adam Block)

Ghastly figures appear to be fighting to escape from this cloud of interstellar gas and dust called SH2-136. The illuminated dark nebula is about 1,200 light-years away, towards the constellation Cepheus.

Halloween Skull in Space

This image of asteroid 2015 TB145 was generated using radar data collected by the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. (Image credit: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF)

How did this skull wind up in space? A radar image of asteroid 2015 TB145, which NASA says is likely a dead comet, was captured using the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on Oct. 30, 2015. Astronomers determined that the asteroid likely completes one rotation every 2.94 hours and that it reflects just 5 or 6 percent of the sunlight that hits it.

Zombie Pac-Man Nebula

The planetary nebula NGC 246 is nicknames the skull nebula. (Image credit: International Gemini Observatory)

An ominous-looking nebula named NGC 246 lurks in the constellation Cetus about 1,600 light-years away from Earth. It is nicknamed the "Skull Nebula," but some astronomers call it the "Pac-Man Nebula." It appears to be taking a bite out of space.

Witch Head Nebula

The Witch Head nebula is estimated to be hundreds of light-years away in the Orion constellation. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A witch appears to be cackling out into space in this eerie image from NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The infrared portrait shows the Witch Head nebula, named after its resemblance to the profile of a wicked witch.

Eye of Sauron is Watching You

This image, taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows Fomalhaut b, orbiting its parent star, Fomalhaut. (Image credit: NASA, ESA and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley, USA))

This evil eye-shaped nebula, formally named Fomalhaut, strikes an eerie resemblance to the fearful Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings series. In the books, Tolkien described the eye as being "rimmed with fire... watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened up on a pit, a window into nothing."

The Face on Mars

The original 'Face on Mars' image taken by NASA's Viking 1 orbiter, in grey scale, on July, 25 1976. Image shows a remnant massif located in the Cydonia region. (Image credit: NASA)

Though we have yet to find any aliens on Mars, NASA did discover this creepy human face on the Red Planet. The original "Face on Mars" image was taken by NASA's Viking 1 orbiter, in grey scale, on July, 25 1976. NASA assures that the face is simply a peculiar pile of rocks — but that doesn't make it any less spooky!

Ghost Head Nebula

NGC 2080, nicknamed "The Ghost Head Nebula," is a chain of star-forming regions lying south of the 30 Doradus nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. (Image credit: NASA, ESA & Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri (Observatoire de Paris, France))

The Ghost Head Nebula's two flaming-hot eyes peer at us all the way from the Magellanic cloud, located about 170,000 light-years away from Earth. Its glowing eyes are star-forming regions with hot blobs of hydrogen and oxygen.

Black Widow Nebula

Spitzer Space Telescope image of the Black Widow nebula. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Wisc.)

This giant, red space spider is the biggest black widow we've ever seen! But don't worry — it won't bite. It's actually just a nebula, or a cloud of interstellar gas and dust.

Zombie Star Explodes Back to Life

Tycho imaged by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.  (Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN & GSFC/T. Sato et al; Optical: DSS)

This zombie star named Tycho was once a white dwarf, or the remnants of an exploding supernova. The dead star gobbled up too much mass from another nearby star and exploded again in what's called a Type Ia supernova.

Cosmic jack-o'-lantern

Outflows of radiation and particles from a massive O-type star carved deep gouges in this nebula, making the cloud of gas and dust look like a spooky jack-o'-lantern. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted a cosmic jack-o'-lantern. 

Researchers uncovered the grimacing pumpkin while mapping star formation in the outer region of the Milky Way. An animation of the nebula outlines the hollowed-out pumpkin, which appears to be screaming into space.

The carved-out cloud of gas and dust is caused by the outflow of radiation and particles from a massive O-type star that is 15 to 20 times more massive than the sun, according to a statement from NASA. 

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.