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10 Ways to Celebrate Halloween with NASA

Animated GIF showing ghostly, wispy nebula.
Hubble has photographed the "Ghost Nebula," which has eerie, semitransparent flowing veils of gas and dust. The nebula is being blasted by a torrent of radiation from a nearby, blue-giant star. This animation flips between two views from Hubble. The more colorful image is taken in visible light where the glow of hydrogen gas looks pinkish. By contrast, the green-grayish view is in near-infrared light (IR) which only records light reflected off of dust. The nebula becomes more transparent and ethereal when looking at it in the IR, allowing for background stars to become more visible.
NASA, ESA, and J. DePasquale (STScI)

There’s a whole universe of mysteries out there to put some funand maybe a touch of frightinto your All Hallows Eve festivities. Here are a few:

Whimsical illustration of Dracula and bats

1. Universe of Monsters

Mythical monsters of Earth have a tough time of it. Vampires don’t do sunlight. Werewolves must wait for a full Moon to howl.

Now, thanks to powerful space telescopes, some careful looking and a lot of whimsy, NASA scientists have found suitable homes for the most terrifying Halloween monsters.

Little boy wearing spacecraft costume.
A James Webb Space Telescope costume.
Dirk Schoellner

2. Be a Spacecraft

No costume. No problem. NASA Blueshift offers some handy tips on transforming yourself into a powerful space telescope before hitting the sidewalk to trick-or-treat.

Man and woman working on elaborate pumpkin carvings
Pumpkins created by engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory were on display during the laboratory's Halloween festivities, which also coincide with JPL's birthday.

3. Robot Pumpkins

At Halloween, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory craft dramatic creations that have as much in common with standard jack-o'-lanterns as paper airplanes do with NASA spacecraft. The unofficial pumpkin carving contest gives engineers a chance to flex their creative muscles and bond as a team. The rules are simple: no planning, carving or competing during work hours.

The results? See for yourself!

Get in there. Do it yourself!

Animated GIF of comet/asteroid that looks like a skull.
This animated GIF was generated using radar data collected by the National Science Foundation's 1,000-foot (305-meter) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The six radar images used in the animation were taken on Oct. 30, 2015, and the image resolution is 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel.

4. Skull Comet

Scientists think a large space rock that zipped past Earth on Halloween in 2015 was most likely a dead comet or an asteroid that, fittingly, bore an eerie resemblance to a skull.

"The object might be a dead comet, but in the (radar) images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby," said NASA scientist Kelly Fast,

As with a lot of spooky things, the asteroid looked a lot less scary upon closer inspection.

Eruptions on the Sun resemble a grinning Halloween pumpkin
On October 8, 2014, active regions on the sun gave it the appearance of a jack-o'-lantern. This image is a blend of 171 and 193 angstrom light as captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

5. Spooky Sun

Not to be outdone, the Sun—our star—has been known to put on a scary face.

In this October 2014 Solar Dynamic Observatory image, active regions on the Sun combined to look something like a jack-o-lantern’s face.

The active regions appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy—markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona. This image blends together two sets of wavelengths at 171 and 193 angstroms, typically colorized in gold and yellow, to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.

Animated GIF showing whimsical Halloween versions of Saturn
Like any extended family, the Cassini mission enjoys holiday traditions - such as transforming our homepage into a spooky landscape for Halloween.

6. Halloween on a Mission

Halloween held a special significance for NASA’s Cassini mission, which launched in October 1997. The team held its own elaborate pumpkin carving competitions for many years. The mission also shared whimsical Halloween greetings with its home planet.

Cassini ended its extended mission at Saturn in 2017.

Wisply Nebula that looks like a Halloween ghost
Powerful gushers of energy from seething stars can sculpt eerie-looking figures with long flowing veils of gas and dust. One striking example is "the Ghost of Cassiopeia," officially known as IC 63, located 550 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.
NASA, ESA, and STScI/Acknowledgment: H. Arab (University of Strasbourg)

7. The Ghost of Cassiopeia

The brightest stars embedded in nebulae throughout our galaxy pour out a torrent of radiation that eats into vast clouds of hydrogen gas – the raw material for building new stars. This etching process sculpts a fantasy landscape where human imagination can see all kinds of shapes and figures. This nebula in the constellation of Cassiopeia has flowing veils of gas and dust that have earned it the nickname "Ghost Nebula."

Nebula that looks like a glowing red eyeball
A zombified Helix Nebula.
NASA, JPL, and K. Su

8. They’re Everywhere

Turns out the human mindincluding space scientists and engineers among usfind spooky shapes in many places.

This infrared view of the Helix Nebula reminded astronomers of a zombie eyeball.

Iceberg under clouds that looks like a coffin.
Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The October 2018 puzzler is above.
NASA Earth Observatory

9. What Do You See?

The Oct. 26 Earth Observatory’s Puzzler feature offers a spooky shape for your consideration. What is it and what does it look like? You tell us.

Candy in microgravity floats to the edges of the bag.
A bag of candy floats freely in the International Space Station.

10. Space Candy

The trick-or-treat tradition is still—so far—pretty much confined to Earth. But thanks to the men and women who have been living aboard the International Space Station for more than 17 years, we have a preview of what a future space-based trick-or-treater’s Halloween candy haul would look like in microgravity.

Want More?

Our education team offers a bunch more Halloween activities, including space-themed pumpkin stencils, costume tips and even some mysteries to solve like a scientist or engineer.



Last Updated
Jan 24, 2024
NASA Science Editorial Team
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