Gnarly nebulae: Breathtaking clouds of gas float through space

A glimpse up at the night sky will reveal a seemingly endless landscape of twinkling stars, but there are even more striking formations lurking in the cosmos: nebulae.

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A nebula is a large cloud of gas and dust in space. According to NASA, a nebula often forms in areas where a new star is forming or another star is dying.

VIDEO: Journey into the cosmos to explore nebulae
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Take a look at some of the universe's most striking nebulae.

Nebulae come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are often brilliantly colored masses that take on breathtaking formations, many of which resemble things here on Earth -- think stingrays, bubbles and tornadoes, to name a few.

Take a look through the gallery above to see some of the most striking nebulae spotted by NASA and other space agencies throughout the years.

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