Just another name for the spooky object staring at us from the Ursa Major, Owl Nebula is a glimpse in the future. The... far future. Billions of years from now, our Sun will get much larger, entering the asymptotic giant branch stage, where stars oscillate and eject a lot of their mass through stellar winds, somewhat like the much more massive Wolf-Rayetstars. It all ends with a lot of gas surrounding a small white dwarf star, which is hot enough to excite it in to the glowing business (tens of thousands of degrees Kelvin).
It might be a bit sad, as this is the peaceful death of a star (unlike supernovae, which usually help giant molecular clouds collapse and form more stars), silently contributing to the chemical enrichment of our own Milky Way and other galaxies. And it all ends in ~ 10 000 years, a rather short moment compared to the lifetime of the progenitor stars.
2600 light years away (or about 24597373900000000 kilometers :P), 3 light years across (so it's 3.3 arcminutes wide as seen from Earth), quite low surface brightness. And it's watching you.
Somewhere in the dark German forests of the Northern Rhine region lies a giant. A fully steerable radiotelescope, the Effelsberg 100m is one of the largest in the world (Green Bank is ... 0.00051% larger, 4 square meters extra). Moving this 3200 tons titan to another target requires 233 kW of power.
The 100m is part of the VLBI and VLBA networks, being used mainly to observe "pulsars, cold gas- and dust clusters, the sites of star formation, jets of matter emitted by black holes and the nuclei of distant far-off galaxies", as said here by his father, the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy.
For a true sense of the scale: from top to bottom of the telescope there are more than 100m (about 60 Alexs tall).
This was the night I finished learning all the constellations, the last 20 or so of them. One has to admit that southern people are very lucky: they have the galactic center, a few of our brightest satellite galaxies (like the Magellanic clouds) and many more (Tarantula, Cen A, the Coalsack)...
A funny thing about our satellite galaxies: they are apparently orbiting the Milky Way in a common plane which is an indication that they might have formed during an interaction with another massive galaxy far away in the past. If true, this would pose some problems for the current cosmological model which predicts the formation of a few more tens of small galaxies around the Milky Way: and we don't see them!
Time will tell is LambdaCDM survives or it needs serious modifications/abandonment.
In the southern part of the Coma Berenices constellation lies one of the brightest galaxies in of the Virgo-Coma cluster of galaxies, 55 million light years away. One of the first spirals to be discovered and being the site for 5 observed supernovae, this galaxy is nothing close to boring and quiet.
Only half of that distance away (21 million light years), M 101 is a giant spiral galaxy measuring 170 000 light years across going through an intense episode of star formation, as seen from the many red spots (ionized Hydrogen) in the image, probably due to an encounter with another galaxy not too many millions of years ago. M 101 was also the site of the last supernova I've seen, SN 2011fe, the youngest type Ia to be discovered.