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Vote for the Hubble Space Telescope's next target (no write-ins, please)

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Folks at the Hubble Space Telescope Institute in Baltimore, Md., are giving fans of the cosmos worldwide a rare opportunity to help choose an object for the venerable orbiting observatory to gaze at.

It's part of the institute's public-outreach program during this year's International Year of Astronomy. And your choices are not culled from among chestnuts in Hubble's Greatest Hits; they are objects Hubble has never peered at.

If you like to think local, you can choose from among one star-forming region and two planetary nebulae in the Milky Way. The planetary nebulae are glowing clouds of gas – essentially a star's atmosphere – given off by sunlike stars in their death throes.

Or you can go deep and pick from among three galaxies. Well, four, really. One of the choices is to focus on a pair of galaxies interacting with one another. (As of this writing, the interacting galaxies have captured first place.)

Unlike old-style Chicago politics, vote early, but don't vote often. It's one person, one vote. The polls close on March 1. And this time, no hanging chads to worry about! The winning shot will be unveiled between April 2 and 5.

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