Nasa Spitzer Space Telescope spots 'celestial Halloween jack-o'-lantern'

Nasa has released a picture of a huge cloud of dust and gas resembling a giant Halloween jack-o’-lantern.

The natural formation is called a nebula which formed after a huge star up to 20 times heavier than the Sun exploded.

It’s believed a powerful flow of radiation and particles from the star pushed the dust and gas outwards, creating ‘deep gouges’ in the cloud.

The space pumpkin was spotted by the Spitzer Telescope, which ‘saw the star glowing like a candle at the centre of a hollowed-out pumpkin’.

Every year, the space agency holds a competition in which staff are given one hour to carve a pumpkin on Halloween. 

‘It’s totally different from our normal engineering work, which makes it a nice change of pace,’ said Billy Allen, a JPL mechatronics engineer on the Mars 2020 rover.

‘You don’t get to do much arts and crafts in the rover world.’

Although the actual sculpting must take place during lunch hour, participants are able to prepare ‘non-pumpkin materials like backgrounds, sound effects and motorized parts’ ahead of time.

First prize was given to Allen’s ‘Lunar Jack-o’-lander’ which paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of Nasa’s Apollo 11 moon landings.

‘To create the landing sequence, they used a pulley system to lower the Moon-bound gourd onto a screen playing real Apollo audio and footage while “smoke” from a fog machine billowed from beneath the spacecraft,’ Nasa wrote.

‘The other winner, “Lucy’s Chocolate Factory,” was a life-size re-creation of the “Job Switching” episode from the TV show “I Love Lucy,” complete with a pumpkin-headed Lucy standing in front of a candy-carrying conveyor belt.’

Nasa’s brightest minds also used a pumpkin to depict a probe drilling into Europa – a moon of Jupiter believed to be hiding an ocean frozen beneath its thicky icy crust.

Another team designed ‘a smoking, green-scaled dragon emerging from a pumpkin egg’ and a scene from the horrir movie ‘Us’ showing a pumpkin stabbing its twin.

Senior mechanical engineer Mike Meacham headed up a team made up of more senior engineers and managers.

He ‘riffed on their age’ with a creation called ‘Emoji Hell’ that’s a giant Newton’s cradle (a swinging ball machine often seen on office workers’ desks) made of an emoji pumpkin and bowling balls.

‘I think people are going bigger this year,’ Meacham said.

‘I’ve seen a lot of structures, including our own, which is enormous. I had to sneak it in last night.’

The hour-long carving portion was ‘hectic’ and saw some teams using table saws and power drills – which is definitely not the sort of thing we’d advise you to try at home.

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